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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

More Quilling... or what to do during a football game?

My husband laughs at me and gets a wee bit frustrated sometimes when he has to 'rewind' back to an awesome play or a touchdown for me. :)

You see, I don't watch football. At best, I listen to it and occasionally glance up to give my eyes a break from close-up work. I can sew, cross-stitch, knit, crochet, spin, and write my novels while the Panthers game is on. This past Sunday, I worked on perfecting my quilling. :)

I'd started a snowflake the day before, sitting at a picnic table in Cherokee, with the sun shining in on me and Sal was fighting rapier with one of our friends. :) I finished the snowflake Sunday during the game, then made a 'scene' to practice designs on a background.

Here's the snowflake:

This was my second attempt at this particular design/pattern. The first is below, on the right. The first attempt was made with parchment paper (all I had at the time), rolled on a toothpick, and used 1/4" wide strips.

The second attempt was made using lighter paper, a smaller roller, and 1/8" wide strips. The second attempt looks much better, in my opinion, and looks a lot more like the pattern I was trying to duplicate. :)

The 'scene' I made was to practice a few things: 
* Holly leaves
* single-strip scrollwork (not sure what this technique is called, but it's really frustrating at first! LOL  Or is that just me??)
* layering

The snowflake on this one is just a tad bigger than a quarter, if you want some scale. :)

This was mostly fun to work on. The only issue I had, really, was trying to get the glue to stick without messing up the lovely curves of the scroll-work. I need to practice that a bit, or use a different glue that dries more quickly, so I don't have to touch it more than absolutely necessary. The stuff I used was not helpful. :P

But the teeny snowflake was fun and quick.

What to do differently next time:
* less yellow, more green on the holly leaves
* thicker glue that will hold up the paper better in the position I want.
* make ALL the pieces before putting it together. :)

Here's a closer look at the 'layering' for the holly leaves. It's much more prominent in person, though.

All in all, this didn't take very long. I think I want to do it next time in a large circle, which I can then surround with a 'frame' of paper, seal the whole thing, and use it as an ornament. As is, the weight is off-center, so I'm thinking I'll just mount it to a card or another piece of paper, and use it as a stand-alone decoration.

I think I'll play a bit more, see what else I can come up with.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ornaments- painted glass balls

Tis the season when my husband gets giggly every time I talk about needing more balls or polishing my balls. Yeah. He's a guy. Okay, I get a bit giggly, too, to be honest. Because I'm a romance/erotica writer in my other life. :D

For a number of years, I've painted ornaments for holiday trees. You'll notice that I don't say Christmas... mainly because I don't use religious symbols on my work, and my stuff has been bought and used by many different religions and non-religious folks who just like a nice holiday tree. :) (please don't flame about this... simply move on if it offends you.)

Anyhow, I was doing a craft show back in the early '00s and I had just learned a particular painting technique. While sitting behind my table for my crocheted items, with my mother who had a ton of wonderful photography, I decided to come up with something special for giving to folks that year.

2003 Gaston Mall Booth


So I brought my small box of supplies and when it was rather dead at the show, I worked on ideas for ornaments. I had a few floral ones up on a rack, using the technique I'd learned, as well as a number of painted items. Those didn't sell well, but the moment I hung an ornament on the rack with a family of snowmen on it, folks began stopping by. A nice couple asked how much for the one on the rack, with names on it. I stammered out a price which has not changed much over the years. They nodded and moved on. I went back to painting, not thinking much about it.

An hour later, the same couple stopped once more, handed me a list and wrote me a check for what they'd just ordered. My eyes bugged out. He was a teacher and a coach and had bought ornaments for his teacher friends' families, his friends, his family, and the families of the kids he coached. She was a nurse and a Sunday school teacher active in the church. Between the two of them, I had an order for over 30 ornaments, two different sizes. I got them done over the next week, found the cutest little boxes for safe delivery and storage, and a new craft stall was born. :)

For several years, the crocheted items became fewer and the ornaments took up more space, until my last two years were nothing but ornaments. The entire 10x10 space was racks of ornaments I'd made myself, a cash register, and a table for storing stuff under and packaging.
 2004 Gaston Mall Booth (above)

2006 Gaston Mall Booth (below)

Note how few crocheted sets I have on this one. I think I sold one set, the entire week-long show. Everything else that year was ornaments. :)

 It was nice doing a big, long show. Word got out, folks came by for more as they thought of other folks they wanted to give a personalized gift to, etc.

Closer shot of ornaments, different number of snowmen on each row, ready for personalization and packaging. The drying rack in the lower left is where things hung until they could be packaged. :)

2007 was the last year that I did the show, I believe. I had no crocheted stuff that year, and several trees set up with ornaments on them. I really wish I'd managed to get pics, but I don't think I did. If I did, I've hidden them rather well from myself!

Anyhow, so the mall shut down and the shows were over, which made a lot of people sad, including me. But about that time, I discovered e-bay and etsy. I posted ornaments in both places and sold quite a few that way, plus I had returning customers from the years at the show. 2009 I also sold them through etsy, but I was a wee bit harried that year, for a number of reasons.

I took the intervening years off, not even painting the ornies for my family or friends, because I was in school or working and I honestly didn't have time.

But this year, a few days ago, a former customer tracked me down and pleaded with me to do at least one for her. When I thought about it and decided to sell them again, I let her know. She ordered more. :) that was really nice. She ordered a LOT more! A Baby's First ornament turned into 18 ornaments! Whew!

This year, after posting a few pics, I've had more orders, enough to put them up on Etsy again (there's a link on the right, just under my pic, if you want to check it out), but I wanted to add something special to my tree this year... something specific to the medieval re-creation society that I belong to and have been active with since 1998. (, if you want to check it out!)

The populace badge for the people of Atlantia, where I live and play, is a unicornate seahorse named Spike. So I thought I'd try a few different versions of Spike on ornaments. I'm still playing around, but this is what I have so far: (Keep in mind that these are meant to be snow-Spikes, not actual replications of natural seahorses!)

First try: with only white paint and a dot of black for the eye:

Another try, on a non-shiny ball. The paint tends to give a better texture on satin/matte finish balls.  I thought Spike needed a Santa hat and a jaunty red scarf. :) He's on purple because that's what I had on hand to practice with.

This is an attempt at a two-person ornament, my husband and myself. The colors are for our heraldic colors (the colors we use in our 'heraldry', to identify us.) He's black, green, and white. I'm red, green, and white. :)

Note that 'our' tails are curled around each other, just as seahorses do in the wild. :) And because it's cute. And we kinda like each other. :D

Sal's SCA name is Philip, so that's what I put on this. He's also a rapier fighter and has gained sufficient skill and prowess to earn a yellow scarf, so I put that on his Spike's tail. :) 
 This is my Spike. The head looks funky because I tried something with the hat that didn't work out the way I wanted. so I changed my mind (I'm a woman, I can do that. *grin*)

I first had a coronet with six white pearls on the points, denoting my title of 'court baroness'. I changed it to a toboggan, though, and added the 'pearls' to the brim of the cap, instead. If I do another one, neater, I'm sure it will be much nicer. :) And of course, my SCA name is Oddny, so that's beside my seahorse. 

This year is the 47th year the SCA has been active as an organization, so instead of 2012, I've done it in the usual style of our society. A.S. XLVII

The feature I like most, I think, is that it looks like the seahorsies are about to kiss, which is only appropriate for Sal and me. :D

I've also done some penguins, moose, santas, peppermint candies, and a number of other Christmassy or holiday themes, but the snowmen seem to be the most popular.

I guess no real point to this post, other than to give myself a reason to look back on the various booths and the years I've been doing this, and sigh happily.

Crafts can give you such a lift, and during this season, because I have seasonal affective disorder, it's a way to remind myself that handmade gifts like this tend to mean so much to folks. Some of my ornaments have become traditions, which saddens me because I had to skip two years. But if all goes well, maybe I can find another Christmas show to set up with each year, and become a tradition to others once more. :)

I love when people come back the next year and have someone to add to the 'family' of snowmen... a new bride or groom, a new baby, that kind of thing. My heart has been broken, as well, when I was asked to do several memorial ornaments for that first couple that got me started on this road. The mother in the couple lost one of her sons, so not only did he disappear from the family ball, but she wanted a special memorial just for him. But there are happier times, as well, like the young couple that stopped by one year with a special request for a pregnant snowoman. :) It's how she told her hubby that they were expecting. I squeeeed! I truly did! :D

I've added animals, on occasion, but those are hard to do and get the breed right, especially when you're making them into snow-critters. :)

Oh, and while making all of these ornaments, I like to put my blu-ray player on Pandora and set it to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra station. I've got a really fine-tuned playlist there, spanning from classical christmas music up to Barenaked Ladies, and everything in between. You'd think it would be jarring to go from Bing Crosby to Christmas Eve Sarajevo, but really... it works. :)

Ah well... I have procrastinated enough, I think. Time to go write! Not much I can do about the ornaments yet... have to go shopping first! :D I know... I'm under such a burden! *dramatically lays back of wrist on forehead* I must.... SHOP!   Nooooooo!!!!!! Don't make me go into that craft store!!!! ARGH!!!!!!!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

I think I quill

I have wanted to learn how to quill for many, many years now. Probably about 30 years.

Had I known it was so simple, I would have attempted it when I was 12, instead of waiting for 42. Sheesh! I remember seeing quilled designs in different craft magazines through the 70s, 80s, and even the 90s. Recently, I saw it again on the cover of a paper-crafting mag. The final straw was when my friend Colleen posted pics of four beautiful snowflakes she'd made the night before.

She inspired me! I had been thinking about a new craft to start, something to kind of cleanse my crafting palette before I got back to writing and making Christmas presents. But because I'd already planned on making sets of hand-made ornaments as gifts this year, quilled snowflakes seemed like a good idea.

So I did a bit of research. I'd thought that you needed to have special equipment, special paper, and a major expense to get started in quilling, none of which I had access to at the moment.

Instead, I found out that you can get started with regular paper or cardstock, toothpicks, and a bit of glue. Having a cork board or some sort of flat surface on which to pin things helps a lot, but isn't strictly necessary.

After perusing various sites for instructions and shops for equipment, I assembled my supplies.
* toothpicks
* straight pins
* paper
* a block from a kid's play-mat, originally bought for blocking crocheted and knitted items
* glue
* scissors
* paper cutter
* knitting needle sizing gauge
* printout of a circular grid/template

That's it. The paper cutter is optional, but recommended for neat, even strips of paper. For that matter, I'd love to have an actual quilling tool, but for now, the toothpicks and pins work. I used calligraphy parchment to begin with, but have also now used cardstock, sketch paper, and construction paper.

I'm betting you're wondering about the knitting needle sizer, aren't you? :) Well, a good way to make sure that all your loose coils are the same size is to use some sort of template, which I'll explain in a bit. But the needle sizer was something I had on hand and I was too lazy to go down to the garage and make a template board, though that's next on the list. Possibly happening tomorrow. I'll post pics.

The printout is not necessary, but is extremely helpful if you're making snowflakes or anything else circular:
circular template

Here's what I came up with to start my quilling adventure:
This has my first efforts at a snowflake, as well. I used 1/4" strips of parchment and a toothpick that I'd cut one end off of and cut a slit in that end, so I could slide the paper into it for curling. The little piece of graph paper at the top is just what I used for glue drops, the additional toothpick up in that corner for applying the glue. Hey, it's not a fancy store-bought kit, but it worked to let me know if this is something I WANT to invest a bit of cash in for 'proper' equipment. The jury's still out on that, since I do have a working solution, but we'll see. :) Depends on whether I get craft store gift cards for Christmas or not. :D

After I made the first snowflake, I realized that it was really hard to discern the heart shapes, since I was using the toothpick, which has a larger diameter. So I tried with the sketch paper a few days later, and a straight pin for curling. Yes, it's an effort in frustration. Yes, I cussed, a lot, when I was learning how to get that itty bitty paper to curl around the itty bitty pin. But it was worth it!

Here's the difference:

The one on the left was with a toothpick, the one on the right with a pin.

Note that the teardrop coils are the same size.

It's a different pattern, but if you open the picture and take a closer look, you can tell that the shapes in the center of the white one are hearts, but it's much harder to tell where the heart shapes are in the one made of parchment. This is not a difference in paper, but in the tool used to roll it.

About those coils and the knitting gauge... if you want all of your loose coils and tear-drops, among other shapes, to be the same size, a template of some sort is helpful. I used the knitting needle gauge, specifically the hole for a size 15 needle, for mine. It's the largest hole on that particular gauge, which is why I want to make another template with larger holes. But for now, it works.

Once you've made your coil, let it relax a bit in the template. It will unroll some, but not a whole lot, if you're using a small-diameter roller. I use the pin to gently 'swirl' the coil until it's loose enough to fill the edge of the hole, but still has coiling in the middle. Harder to explain than to try. Once it's unrolled enough, I keep the pin where the outer edge of the paper meets the rest of the coil. Dot some glue there, then I pin it at that spot, using the pin to hold it in the proper shape and size. I roll another coil while that's taking a few seconds to dry, then repeat as necessary.

The template is also useful for tight coils, since I'm using the knitting needle gauge. I have found that 1" strips rolled on a pin will fit very nicely for drying inside the 2 3/4 hole, depending of course on the paper you're using and the tightness of your roll. Basically, once I make a regular template (with at least 6 holes in each size coil, so I can do snowflakes like these), I might just keep the smaller one on hand for those tight coils. :) 

A closer look at the white snowflake:
This isn't perfect, but I think it's a vast improvement over the first one. I was even able to put a 'hanger' on the top of it. :)

I did use 1/8" paper on the white one, which adds to the delicacy of the filigree. It's harder to work with, but again, worth it for the final product. 

Here's the white one, pinned and drying.

I've learned a few things about pinning, by the way:
* pin the part of the piece that won't move, first. For instance, the points on the snowflake were accomplished by pinning the point (the V), where I wanted it, then gently using a pin to pull the coiled ends until they touched the top of the teardrops. Then I glued, once I had those in place, using a straight pin to apply the glue.
* Be very careful with the uncoiling part of the hearts! If you let them get too big, they lose their delicate look.
* Thinking I should do a short tutorial on how to pin the various shapes... Hmmm. Thoughts on that? 

Finally, I taught a good friend to quill, just the basics, since that's all I know, we came up with a little design, just playing around. Mike's Hard Lemonade was involved, or this would be finished. :)
This one was done with card stock and pins as rollers.Well, pins for the tight coils and hearts, but toothpicks for the stalk of the flower. :)

So there you have it. My first adventures into quilling. Now that I have a bit of a clue what I'm doing, I'm going to be spending FAR too much time on Pinterest, gathering ideas for ornaments to make for Christmas this year. Fortunately, I have three brothers and a sister-in-law, all three of which have their own trees that need some Doni-lovin' hand-made goodness. Whether they want it or not! :D

To see all kinds of beautiful quilled designs, if you have Pinterest, go type in 'quilling' and see what pops up. If you don't have Pinterest... WTF? Why not??? good grief, but it's wonderful!!!! Totally addictive and time-sucking, but completely worth it! :)

Anyhow, if you don't have Pinterest, use the search engine of your choice and see just how many wonderful, gorgeous, and whimsical designs can be done for literally pennies.

Until next time, happy crafting!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

First post... jumping right in!

 So I've been crafting for as long as I can remember, as I come from a long line of crafters. I'm also a published author, with both craft instruction books and novels under my pen name, Bethany Aan.

On this blog, I intend to document my adventures through projects, new crafts, new tools/kits/fun stuff for older crafts, etc. When possible, I plan to do reviews on new products as well as reviews on products that have been around awhile, but I've only just discovered them.

For those who have landed here by some odd search, I practice the following arts. These are just the ones I can remember at this time, and will be added to as I either recall or learn more. :)

 Do a lot/ most knowledgeable:
* Crochet
* Knitting

* sprang

Do less often, but usually in 'bursts':
* needle-point

* cross-stitch
* tole painting
* re-enactment garb sewing (medieval, SCA)
* spinning
* cake decorating
* Quilting/Patchwork
* baking
* Beading

Don't do very often, but have the stuff and the basic knowledge:
* stamping
* embossing
* locker-hooking
* leatherworking

Just learning but like so far:

* Quilling

 And by 'just learning', I mean that I picked it up the day before Thanksgiving and have made three things to this date. :D

So let the fun begin! I'll post as I have projects in the works, or as folks want to see more of a particular craft. I have tons of pics that I can upload as examples of the different crafts I've done, so don't be afraid to ask to see some of them, along with an explanation of the process, supplies, etc. :) I'd like this to be a helpful, informative blog, with lots of interaction, if possible.