Monday, April 7, 2014

alternating current

Alabama Chanin style can be funky, or can be a lot more mainstream... One of their more recent journal posts showed a look that was much more conservative than their usual, and I found it to be an interesting way of adding subtle decoration to a pretty ordinary looking dress. Each of their stencil designs can be used in many different ways, depending on not only which colors you choose for your project, but also in what way you decide to stitch, cut, or embellish the stencilled designs. Their 2014 stencil of the year is much more geometric than the floral designs mostly associated with their style.

Whilst I like making my own stencils, their download page is a great resource for stencil designs already worked out and road tested for useability... I have actually downloaded and used one of their designs (Magdalena) when I made the grey tee shirt last year.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Great Big Squid

because all work and no play makes our plucky heroine a dull girl...

Practicing two-handed Fair Isle with fingering weight yarn… had two contrasting colors in my stash of mostly worsted weight yarn, a heathery orange and a dark cobalt blue…
Started out with some size 2 needles, as that looked like the best option to coordinate with the thinner than usual yarn, but they snapped in half before I got very far, I think that they were poorly made, possibly from barbecue skewers! Started over with better quality small bamboo circulars that were size 3…

I have no idea if I am anywhere near an appropriate gauge, as all I printed out was the pictorial diagram of the big octopus. I am going to use using a different design for the back side of the bag, instead of the seahorses I will use my new favorite motif, the double rams-horn/ocean-waves curves…

Saturday, March 29, 2014

the blessings of memory and the memory of blessings...

in which our plucky heroine is put in mind to remember kindness with gratitude...

Yesterday's sorting and decluttering session unburied the iPod that accompanied girl to the hospital two years ago, the tunes and gizmo a most welcome gift from my friends Bob and Sam, and girl had somehow forgotten all the gems of memory embedded in the various songs...

It has been long years since I left my parents house to go away to college the first time, long years since all the simple and complex discoveries of those years, where the autumn winds were filled with leaves the colors of bonfires, where the deep snowy streets were cleared by what our dazzled vision saw as all sorts of clanking saurian machinery... the light of memory fades away my troubles and tears that surely accompanied those tiny illuminations of my young adult life...

I do remember the first time I listened to recorded music through headphones though... even more magical than being able to listen to favorite songs and musicians at all and concert tapes of shows we never attended, headphones put the sound somehow inside your head, with the various players somehow located in different places, and sometimes the music moved location... That brighteyed hopeful young girl lives buried in the mists also somehow inside my head, she comes out to play with poetry and artworks, but most folks never see her, only what she has touched...

Bless the daytime
Bless the night
Bless the sun which gives us light
Bless the thunder
Bless the rain
Bless all those who cause us pain...

(a prayer not only for our plucky heroine who continues journeying on 'til my life bids me halt, for all of us who journey onwards, for all the heros and heroines known and unknown, but especially for G, who has now married the woman who told him to leave me)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

whatever else is happening, knitting always satisfies

Our plucky heroine just finished another knitted colorwork pouch, this one sized for glasses/sunglasses... projects like this are ideal for trying out colorwork patterns and color combinations, and it has also been a useful way to practice the technique of two-handed Fair Isle knitting, which catches in all the floats and leaves a smooth interior...

compare and contrast the wrong sides... the colorful pouch on the left, done in two-handed Fair Isle, has no floats at all; the green pouch on the right, done in my "normal" knitting style, has yarn floats... not to say that either one is better but the more techniques in my personal toolbox, the easier it is to choose the most useful one for a particular project. I know that were I knitting sweater sleeves (or mittens), yarn floats are annoying in how they catch fingers. On the other hand, floats do provide additional insulation, so for a tea cozy (or a hat) they would be a plus...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Eating the frog and other soggy delights

Decided yesterday evening that today would be time to eat the frog and do all the pages of arithmetic that my various federal and state and city tax forms require. (no idea why I put this off every year, it really isn't that horrible)  My 2013 taxes are all done; all that remains is another trip to the copy shop. I think I have a little froggish indigestion now, after hours with the calculator. But Yay! for completing a major procrastinatory item on my to do list, and double Yay!! for having managed enough money saved up to pay all the different taxes owed. I watched the rest of Bravest Warriors cartoons as a reward.

Had what might be a very productive session with my counselor this morning. Managed to stay focused on the area I have the most difficulty with; not sure where we can go from here, but I am determined not to let myself sidetrack myself with other, albeit also needful issues.

Managed to figure out that the reason my front porch and walkway were full of water was that the gutter was not draining. Clambered up on the stepladder (safely, on the porch) and reached around and up where I could and removed a lot of mucky debris. Also used a handy stick to dislodge more. Got the downspout cleared and voila, water going where it should instead of where it shouldn't. Then took apart the lower downspout to rescue stick, which fell from my cold mucky fingers down the tube, and couldn't be left there to create a new interior clog.

Now I am cold and wet and filthy. Time for a wash-up, dinner, and then making a fair copy of tax forms for tomorrow... Never a dull moment here at the Acorn Cottage house of fun

Monday, March 24, 2014

Media Monday and another enamel workshop

This past weekend, despite the lovely soft spring sunshine, our plucky heroine spent mostly indoors teaching a second Introduction to Cloisonné workshop. My old friend Zenobia turned out to be the singular student, so it was more of a private lesson, but that allowed her to complete two small pieces over the course of the weekend.

Saturday morning she showed up with tasty pastry treats... mmm brioche stuffed with goat cheese and roasted winter squash for lunch, and we decided to go out to dinner at a new-to-me restaurant, The Fishwife, on Lombard between here and St Johns. What a treat! I have to call it a local gem... the food was much better than I expected from the exterior and "1950s beach café" decor. I had fried calamari, and they were crisp, hot and completely not greasy at all! Z had the osso buco with polenta and rapini, and while she almost regretted not choosing seafood, it was well worth the exception. This restaurant goes on my short list.

I always love to see the design choices my students make, and do my best to help them be successful. Zenobia's second design was inspired by our local Steller's Jay.. showing the progression from initial sketch, color choices and finished enamel, as well as some thought about how best to bend the wires to get the desired linear shapes. Her choice of adding just two curved wires to the background was a great way to add a lively dynamic to the image in a way that suits the size of the piece. Yet again proving that I learn something new from each person that attends one of my classes!

...and here is a closer look at her two finished enamel pieces (each the size of a nickel) I love the way that Zenobia's love of color is expressed in her enameling...

Someone asked on FB whether enamels of this size could be set as earrings. My reply was that while enamels of this size *could* be set as earrings, in several different ways, they would be what I consider to be quite heavy (I only wear lightweight earrings, and were I to make enamel earrings I would use a base that was probably a fourth the size of these...

which would need a simpler design, like the ones I made a number of years ago, which are about 1cm across their widest dimension:

and because no springtime is complete without a little tongue in cheek...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

repairing the damage

our plucky heroine has been working on a "repair the broken enamel" project; one of my pieces from a far kingdom met with something bad...

Now mind, I only ever repair enamels that I myself initially created (as that way I know the materials used and the construction... which allows my safety in the deconstruction and repair) and in the years I have been making regalia and jewelry, I have only ever had three come back for repairs after being damaged.

On arrival here, this lovely piece showed a small piece of missing enamel over the Pelican's wing, and cracks all over the golden transparent background...

Looking more closely at the setting, there was one side of the heavy backing plate bent away from the bezel cup that holds the enamel - extremely odd... that this amount of bending could occur without damage, or any effect at all, to the pearl drops

Back lighting shows how bent the backing plate is. Whatever caused this is probably whatever caused the damage to the enamel as well

After removing the enamel from the setting, it was obvious that the bezel had been all that was holding the shattered enamel glass in place. This is pretty much what I expected to happen, as the other time I repaired an enamel with this amount of cracking on the surface it also had many shards that came loose when the setting was removed

All the detached enamel bits have left a great deal of the design and background missing, and the remaining enamel is deeply cracked, which will likely remain as shadows in the repaired enamel

These tiny pieces in particular are part of the Laurel wreath and I shall endeavor to reattach them when the repairs are made. The enamel design will go back into the kiln at 1500F for a number of times to reattach and fuse the broken pieces and to fill in the places that are missing... This is not a trivial repair!

learned something new... in the process of gradually adding new enamel to the parts where it was entirely missing, the many repeated hot firings also gradually brought the air bubbles (that were initially fused into the cracks with the first repair firing) to the surface, where they could be filled and re-fused.
While no repaired piece looks "like new" this is by far the best re-enameling I have done, and will remember to use this technique should other repairs show up.
This enamel is really difficult to photograph well, but I am really happy with how the deep cracks all across the background have been not just fused back but are mostly invisible now, and how the missing enamel has been replaced and color-matched... next steps will be to remove the old bezel cup, create a new bezel cup, repair the damaged backing plate, and then reassemble the entire piece... like I said, it isn't a trivial process..