Nature Nut

We profited from unusually warm temperatures last weekend to break out a gift I bought for the family on Etsy before Christmas: a Backyard Bird Nest Experiment Kit from the TheNatureNut. In the last two weeks, we’ve seen and heard robins and  chickadees (and a red-chested bird I can’t identify) around our tree again, so this seemed like a great time to pull it out. I didn’t have to ask my son twice if he wanted to help hang them from the branches of our cherry tree; he was straddling a limb before I had found my shoes.

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The handmade kit comes with four wire cages stuffed with different materials: straw, shredded colored paper, yarn and dog hair; there is an experiment observation sheet where we record the nesting material, staring date, empty date and comments, as well as a second observation sheet for recording the types of birds inspecting or taking the materials. In addition, Kathleen provides information about ways to attract birds to your yard, suggested nesting materials, resources and instructions for recording and tabulating the results of the experiment. Children are encouraged to monitor the cages to see which material is used more than the others, and to look around the neighborhood for nests built with our stuffing.

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Browsing through her shop on a rainy November day, I couldn’t resist adding these maple seed butterflies to my shopping cart. They seemed full of promise for spring.

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Cleverly packaged with a styrofoam block and recycled water bottles turned upside down to provide a protective casing, these little butterflies sat on our windowsill for months waiting for the weather to turn. Now they sit in our garden as a sweet reminder that the real butterflies will be out soon enough.

SALE – Silver Crochet Jewelry

In an effort to consolidate my inventory, I’ve marked all the silver crochet jewelry down 15%. Free shipping when you buy two or more pieces. I’ll also package your pieces in an upcycled felt pouch. If each piece is intended as a separate gift, please specify this in the comments so I can make an extra pouch.

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While I do enjoy working with beads and crochet, I’d like to focus my energies on felt. I hope that in selling off the jewelry, it will make my shop look a little more coherent. Custom orders are always welcome, and I expect to make these items for gifts in the future, but I don’t think they belong in this store.

Silver Scrolls and Closures

The scroll is a shape that has always intrigued me. From the time I tried to draw my first treble clef for music theory class in the third grade, I’ve been enchanted with swirls.

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Which doesn’t mean that I find good swirls easy to draw. Many of my swirls collapse on themselves and I’m left trying how to fit the last bit of curl in the space remaining. They are often too cramped (top left), too short (middle), or strangely proportioned (right).

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Frustrations aside, when I started to work with crocheting wire, I knew that ordinary closures available at the bead store just wouldn’t work with the pieces I was creating, so I looked around for instructions on fabricating closures. Knitting With Wire by Nanci Wiseman had just the illustrations I needed.

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Next on my list of problems was a distinctive closure for my felt bead necklace that lay flat against the cord, kept the cord in place and could slide up and down without being sloppy.

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Ahh. Much better. Variations of this felt bead necklace are now up in my shop; the scroll is available for sale separately.

Elegant Curls

This one falls under the category of ‘why I love my husband so much’. The other night I was struggling to find a way to display these earrings. I had a vision in my head that my hands just couldn’t execute.

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After struggling for a while to work with my lopsided, unbalanced, two legged stand (you can see a glimpse of it in the flickr pictures in the sidebar), I tucked my pride in my pocket and asked Lance if he could find a solution. ‘Mind if I take this downstairs and work on it while I watch SportsCenter?’, he asked. Not at all.

An hour later he emerged with an elegant, whimsical and practical solution. I’m not sure what to call this yet. He has plans to make a larger version out of more substantial wire to sit on a tabletop as a way to display scarves or bags. I can’t wait to see how it looks.

Embracing Asymetry

There are times when asymetry can really challenge my sense of order. Then again, there are times when asymetry is the only thing that really looks right. When you are working with a piece of cord that is just a little too short and not enough beads of the same color, you have to just embrace it.

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I’m thrilled with this little necklace because it can be anything you want it to be. The little silver scroll can be placed anywhere, though leaving them low gives you a little more room to breathe.

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The beads can slide up or down the cord, but because they are felt they won’t go anywhere unless you tug. Once they are positioned, they will stay put until you decide to rearrange them, or some little fingers do it for you. Can you say ‘perfect nursing necklace’?

This one is going up in my etsy shop, but if you recall, I made a lot of felt beads this summer, so I’ll be making several versions of this necklace and one will definitely hang out with me.

SpiderFelt Steps Out

Thanks to a little pushing and shoving from Marysusan, I decided to make the big step and put up my Etsy shop. Even though I don’t have my collateral in place, I’ve launched my new brand name: SpiderFelt. Imagine a spunky little spider who spins wool and wire into offbeat creations (inspiration and credit due to Jane Dyer, illustrator of Sophie’s Masterpiece).

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For this first offering, I’ve posted some knit wire pendants,

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a box made from flat felt embellished with Sea Silk,

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a few felt pins,

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and a couple of necklaces.

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If you don’t see what you want, I’d be delighted to make something especially for you.

Since this blog is all about learning and sharing, I’m going to put myself out on a limb and say the header on my shop doesn’t look the way I want it to. Does anyone have recommendations for creating a crisp, clear header like ruby-crowned kinglette? I removed my name from the header because the pixelation was so gross I couldn’t stand to look at it. What software should I be using? I have Photoshop, but am more familiar with ImageReady. If you are game for a little tutorial, I’d be forever indebted. Are there any WordPress users with suggestions for creating a shop button on my sidebar? Hacking blog software is not where I prefer to spend my time and the FAQ have not provided me with any quick answers.

Silver Crochet

The night before we planned to leave for a wedding, I had a terrible time falling asleep. Before flashy events, I tremble with anxiety about what to wear, and lately what I can make to wear. 

On this particular night, visions of a crochet necklace danced in my head. It occurred to me that if I could knit with silver wire, I should be able to crochet with it, and why couldn’t I crochet some beads into it at the same time? I realize this is not a unique notion, but I had not seen it executed and I’m not particularly adept at crochet, so the possibilities made me quiver with excitement.

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My first attempt was a simple chain with tiny red seed beads. The kink created by the coiled wire manifested itself in a slightly wavy shape in the finished piece. Because of the flexibility, I used 28 ga sterling silver dead soft wire and an I hook.

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My second attempt was another simple chain with dyed freshwater pearls hooked on every other stitch. I used 30 pearls for this necklace which sits just on the collarbone.

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My third attempt started with a plain foundation chain, then a row of single crochet with the beads, followed by a third row of single crochet. While I started with a chain the same length as my second necklace, each successive row shortened the necklace, resulting in a choker. As I said, I’m not very experienced with crochet, so I forgot to take this into account. Each piece was finished with a sterling lobster claw crocheted into place just like another bead. I created a loop on the opposite end and wound the wire around itself to close it up.

Thank you to my lovely neck model, Heidi, for her gracious assistance.

Knit Silver Wire Bundles

Last month, Marysusan of All Good Girls Are Marys issued a collaborative challenge: she expanded on a design I created and posted the illustration on her blog. I loved her idea, but being separated from my tools and materials, I was forced to sit on my hands until I returned to Seattle. While at Keats, I combed the beach looking for interesting morsels to dangle.

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As soon as the dirty clothes were sorted and fresh fruit on the counter, I pulled out my needles. My first prototype was knit with 24 gauge nickel-plated craft wire. This resulted in a clunky heavy bundle without much definition. It will be perfect to hang from my rear-view mirror, but not from the neck of any human I know.

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The next two were knit with 28 gauge dead-soft sterling silver wire; this means the wire is extremely malleable and very fine, resulting in a much lighter little package that may bend if abused.

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The last package was strung up on wax-coated cotton cord with 24 gauge half hard sterling silver wire and findings. The difference between 28 gauge (the thinner wire used to create the pocket) and 24 gauge (the thicker wire used to wrap the cord) is noticeable in the picture below.

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If you are interested in trying this project, I would recommend working with half-hard sterling silver wire instead of dead-soft, unless you plan to create a production line knitting a never ending string of chain mail. Half-hard wire will make your hands sore after a while, but it is worth it in the ultimate durability of your finished product.

Knitting Wire Necklace

After weeks of absenteeism, I was finally able to attend the Fiber Gallery‘s Sit ‘n Knit last Tuesday.

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My vibrant friend, Melissa the Baker, she of yarn and kitty tattoos, formerly known as the Empress of Desserts, was wearing this beauty, inspired by Leigh Radford’s Silver Squares Necklace in AlterKnits.

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She brought beads and wire with her instead of yarn, rationalizing that she doesn’t want to knit with wool in the summer, and in the late fall she is too busy making Christmas presents, so why not switch her schedule? Knit wire necklaces for sister-gifts in July and leave your hands free for wool in November.

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knit_wire.jpgI was so taken by her project, that I immediately went home to try one for myself. Naturally, the materials I had one hand weren’t exactly what Melissa was using, nor were they the same gauge as suggested by Leigh Radford. I did have a fine sterling silver wire, but it was so pliable that I had a hard time casting on in a fashion that looked neat. Long-tail and cable cast-on both created a messy jumble. In the end, I settled with long-tail, wasting a bit of wire after casting on the stitches just so I had something to handle. Who knew wire could be so slippery?

I also struggled with getting the beads exactly where I wanted them. Do you knit the first row or purl? If you knit the first row, do the beads go on your purl row? First stitch or second? Once again, I settled with an assymetrical piece, deciding that it was an intentional design feature if anyone asked me about it. So far, my husband has been the only person to comment. If he ever asks for his own pendant, I’ll work a little harder on figuring out how to center the beads.

If you are interested in trying this yourself, I cast on seven stitches using 30 gauge sterling silver wire, and a US 7 aluminum double point needle. I knit five rows using a mismatched pair of needles, as per Melissa’s suggestion – one US 7 and one US 4 needle. Melissa and Leigh suggest using 28 gauge wire. Have fun playing with wire.

Edit: Marysusan made a great suggestion for taking this idea one step further: turn the knit wire into a mesh cage. Think of small treasures you want to carry around your neck, perhaps a pearl or polished stone; create a small amulet. I love her illustration, so had to include it here. Now I just have to get my hands on a little wire and try this out (I knew I should have packed some).  pendantsketchfinalsmallercopy.jpg

Wire Hanger

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This piece was knit with 24 gauge silver-plated wire and a US 17 needle. I needed an efficient way to store my earrings that kept them separate and untangled. It is the perfect blend of form and function.