Thursday, September 30, 2010

The start of a new idea

I love the idea of documenting the progress toward a new design, so I thought I'd share my experiment log here on my blog. It's hard to tell at the beginning if the idea will ever pan out, but this one is interesting enough for me to think it might go somewhere. It is also not spectacularly beautiful, so definitely needs some work.
As you see, Gwen and I have been systematically finding uses for Herringbone Stitch in our beadwork.

We've been enjoying the curve that you get from the Herringbone weave afforded by using two different bead sizes, as on the columns on the Ionic Cube (right) and in the Herringbone trim on the Hour Glassy Bead (center). I begin my search for a new design with the two-sized, curved Herringbone Stitch in mind. My plan is to create a web of the smaller of my seed beads (11/0 this time), and then decorate it with Herringbone Stitch using the larger size seed bead (8/0 this time).

Here's what I stayed up late doing yesterday. ( I gave exams to 145 students yesterday; please don't ask me how my grading is going. Having a task to procrastinate does give me a burst of energy though.)
While I do think it is interesting, I don't say "Wow, that's pretty" when I look at it. Once I figure out why, I'll give it another go. I'm thinking the 8/0 beads are too crowded. Maybe I'll try to taper the sizes to highlight the shape a little.

Friday, September 24, 2010

My last Twinchie

Here is a "Twinchie," which is a 2in x 2in card that I made for a swap on This seahorse is the one I used for my stencil in this post:

I drew the seahorse and all of the other components of this pull out in Adobe Illustrator, and cut them out on my Silhouette cutter. It says "The oldest seahorse fossils date back thirteen million years." Wow, that's a long time.
Seahorse Twinchie closed (left) and open (right)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The evolution of a design

Finding an artist that I can collaborate with at so many levels is just amazing. The Ionic Polyhedra beaded bead collection, a new pattern that we are releasing today at beAd Infinitum, is a testament to how ideas can really take off when Gwen Fisher and I work together.

Gwen wrote the (free) Strappy Strip herringbone weave pattern to give our visitors a beaded chain on which to hang the Rivoli Sunflower and other beaded pendants. With it I finally learned the Herringbone Weave, which I had long ignored. I really took to that stitch and made, with it, many pretty and many ugly designs. These include an early version of the Hour Glassy Beaded Bead and the Ionic Cube shown below.
Early versions of designs using Herringbone Stitch

I really liked the look of the Herringbone trim, but both were a real pain to make. There were spots in which the thread peeked through (no! not thread!) and there were parts of the stitching in which I had to work really hard to get the needle into the appropriate beads. I showed pictures to Gwen, but did not tell her how I had put them together.

Gwen made versions of her own and what an improvement! Here's Gwen's version of the Hour Glassy Bead, in the colors we sell in our kits. See the smaller gray crystals near the equator of the bead, and the three little seed beads decorating them? These additions make the inner structure fit together beautifully, and eliminate the needle-breaking corners I was dealing with.
And here is Gwen's much more compact and cleaned up version of the Ionic Cube, which is one of the beads described in detail in the new pattern.
Ionic Cube by Gwen Fisher
Wow, that's pretty. She solve the tight corners problem in my version using shorter (less unruly) pillars of herringbone weave, and by adding the fringe drops at the vertices. She took that idea and ran with it! Check this out:
Ionic Pentacluster by Gwen fisher
This is an Ionic Pentacluster, which is a five fold bicone. I didn't realize unitl I read her Ionic Polyhedra Pattern that Gwen has also improved the threefold Herringbone Weave, reducing the stitching from a true Herringbone stitch to a much quicker and easier variation which still maintains the integrity of the cable. It takes half as long to do; I'm never going back!

The pattern for the Ionic Polyhedra beaded beads that we are releasing today is amazing. It includes 14 different beaded beads, with very detailed instructions for the Ionic Cube and Ionic Octahedron. Here's Gwen's description:

"I wrote and illustrated detailed instructions for the cube and octahedron (see above photo) with advanced-beginning bead weavers in mind.  This part of the pattern includes every relevant detail I could think of, including some of the underlying mathematics.  For more advanced weavers, I include lengthy descriptions of how to create other shapes using this technique (including those shown here) and a three page spread showing the steps for an Ionic Icosahedron. A handy table includes seven different geometric objects that I use to design beaded beads, and I include detailed photographs and written explanations describing them all, including bead counts and sizes so you can make them all yourself."

Read more about her experiences writing this lengthy and detailed pattern on Gwen's blog.
See more example of Ionic Polyhedra in Gwen's beAd Infinitum Gallery.
Buy the Ionic Polyhedron Beaded Bead Pattern from beAd Infinitum. Writing this post makes me want to go make another one!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

beAd Infinitum: new patterns

Did you see that Cindy's Balloon Box beaded bead pattern is now up for sale? Isn't it pretty!
Copyright 2010: Cindy Holsclaw
Beads beads beads beads beads....

Friday, September 17, 2010

Colored pencils

I dug my colored pencils out of the art supplies box in the garage. It has been fun to look at all the ways that the stamping community uses them. I've been testing the techniques for myself; here's what I've tried:
  • Blending with an odorless paint thinner (I used Mona Lisa brand), following this tutorial SplitcoastStampers Tutorial: Copics with Pencils though I put so much colored pencil, my copic coloring shows through not at all.
  • Blending with a colorless blender (which is a colorless colored pencil that adds the waxy medium to your drawing and helps burnish and blend; mine came in a pack of two from prismacolor)
  • Adding ink outlines, following this tutorial SplitcoastStampers Tutorial: Blended Pencils.

Hats: Image by Aunty Amy (I Brake for Stamps!)

In the project above, I stamped two copies of the image. I colored the hats on one, and the wooden racks on the other, and cut them out to assemble them on a new sheet of white paper. When coloring the images, I used Prismacolor colored pencils and blending pencil, Mona Lisa odorless mineral spirits and a fine line black pen. Here are some things that I learned.

Cut it out
I like not having to stay in the lines when I color, and especially when I blend, but I like having stayed within the lines when the project is done. Paper piecing is the perfect solution to this. If you plan to cut the image out, you can color right over those edges without worry.

When you are planning to cut out an image, add what printers call bleed to the edges of the image. Systematically extend the color along the edges onto the white part of the paper, so that you don't need to cut so precisely to get a clean finish. The sharpness in the hats in this project comes largely from the dark inked edge, which I widened with my pen, and then trimmed off when I cut it out.

After cutting out the image, apply color to the white edges of the image. I used ink, since I had dark edges to my image to start with, but I can see using the pencils for this as well. When I did this, I put the cut-out on a scrap of dark card stock, so I could see the white edges.

I also learned that paper pieced images look better when they are layered in the order that the objects are in the image. For example, I colored the green hat as if the rack were not there, and then I glued the hat rack on top. The rack actually goes into the hat through a small slit at the top.

Black and white
I came to this from watercolor painting years hence, and I tend to be reluctant to use either white or black. White in watercolor is just plain cheating (you are supposed to leave the paint off the white parts), and black makes the otherwise translucent colors muddy. Not so with pencils. Colored pencils do not mix like watercolors. Blending the bright colors with the colorless blender or by applying mineral spirits smooths the color together, but eliminates much of the contrast. With the black and white pencils in addition to the colors, I changed the tones, darkened the edges and added shine.

Smudge the ink
Following Lydia's Blended Pencil tutorial I listed above, I did not despair when all of my blending and smudging pretty much obscured the detail in the original stamped image. Once I figured out I should use the black (and indigo) and white pencils, I could get contrast, but not definition. So I watched Lydia add the ink to her drawing, effortlessly saying that you really didn't have to be careful. Well, you have to be a little bit careful. I put on too much ink not always in the right places.

It turned out to be a happy accident, however. With nothing else to do but start over, I went at the inked image again with the pencils. Wow, that turned out to be a great idea.  The waxy finish of the pencils allows the ink to move around even when it is dry. I was able to change my scribbles into blocks of shading.  
Smudging ink with colored pencils: Image by Impression Obsession
Hold onto Your Hat: Images by Impression Obsession (hat)
and Rubber Monger (wind)

Step 1: Stamp, color and blend
Step 2: Ink
Step 3: Blend with pencils and colorless blender (not mineral spirits)
Step 4: Cut and paste

Thank you Lydia, for the inspiration. That was fun. What I need now is a good pencil sharpener. Any suggestions?

    Sunday, September 12, 2010


    I've been struggling to add stamps to decorate the backgrounds of my fish and seahorses. In this image, I used one of Inkadinkado's anamal hide stamps to make water.

    Here's where I first explained about my stencils and stamps:
    Butterfly Dresses

    Wednesday, September 8, 2010

    A seahorse!

    I drew this seahorse for the twinchie swap as well. Here is the kinetic card I first made with this design. Once again, I used an animal hide stamp from Inkadinkado to give the stencil texture.
    I'm still trying to get the hang of the koi as well.
    Here's where I first explained about my stencils and stamps:
    Butterfly Dresses

    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    My 7th fish

    Inkadinkado has a couple of sets of animal hide stamps. I bought the scaly one (rather than the stripy and spotty one) with my Michael's 40% coupon (which was burning a hole in my pocket) to use with this fish stencil. I enlarged the Koi image that I drew for the Twinchie Swap to make the stencils for this fish. I used three stencils this time: the whole shape, the eyes, and the side pectoral fins. It took 7 tries to get this image; while the technique worked well, it took me a while to get the layering of the stencils to look reasonable.

    There are a few different scaly stamps in this set; you can expect to see more fish coming soon.
    Here's where I first explained about my stencils and stamps:
    Butterfly Dresses

    Monday, September 6, 2010

    Sunday, September 5, 2010

    Acetate Stencils: Apron!

    I'm continuing my experiments with stencils, and planning a tutorial that I hope will entertain people with cutters and stamps. My first project was a dress, decorated with butterflies. The textures I get with this combination of tools and techniques remind me of fabric, so I decided another article of clothing was in order. Although 'tisn't the season yet, it will be before we know it, and I pulled out my red and green.
    As with the dress, I drew the apron in Adobe Illustrator, and cut it out on my Silhouette cutter. This one uses two stencils, one with the apron and the other with the pockets, belt and bow. I kept the cut-out pieces for the red parts, and used them as a mask to get the two-colored apron. I'm so excited how easy and fun this is; I love finding new things to do with my cutter and my stamps.

    What I've learned about resin so far

    I posted some buttons I made using resin a while back.  In this post I share some of the things I learned about using resin in the process.

    I got interested in using resin by reading this article in Bead Style magazine:
    Stir Up Some Sweet Delights, by Steven James

    I tried it after reading this tutorial:
    Beading Daily Tutorial
    Be sure to watch the video at the bottom.

    There is a book that looks quite good by Sherri Haab; I have not yet purchased it, but when I get stuck into my Christmas ornament projects, I probably will.

    There's a nice video on You-tube here: Making Resin Rings by John Golden

    Easy Cast Clear Casting Resin
    I used Easy Cast Clear Casting Resin, which I bought from a seller on ebay once and at Michael's once.
    • With this product, you measure equal parts of the hardener and the resin. 
    • After combining the resin and the hardener, the mixture must be stirred for 2 minutes, moved to a clean container, and stirred for another minute.
    • This product cures in 24 hours. 
    Both the quantities you must measure and the length of time you must wait vary from resin to resin. This is the only variety I've tried, but once I read the directions, I had no problem with it, and didn't see the need to try another kind. There are actually resins that cure in 15 minutes, aided by the ultraviolet rays of the sun.

    About having to wait: Although it is hard to wait that long to see if my latest experiment worked, I was not always neat and tidy when I did my projects, and with this slow curing resin, after about 12 hours, the resin was hard enough to, for example, scrape off the drips and drops. After 24 hours, the resin was so hard, the only way to remove unwanted spills is with sand paper.

    About bubbles: This product "self degasses" which means the bubbles all pop themselves a few minutes after finishing all that stirring.

    Castin' Craft Easy Mold
    I made the molds for these gears using Castin' Craft Easy Mold and some Legos. I colored them after they were cured by putting them in a small zip lock bag with some metallic Ranger alcohol ink. You can scratch the color with your fingernail, but if you don't do that, that method of adding color on resin works well. 

    Resin Gears
    You can make a mold of just about anything from this fascinating stuff. You kneed equal parts (imprecisely) of two clays, press in your object, and three minutes later, you have a perfect detailed mold. You either leave it over night, or bake it for 30 minutes and it is ready to use. I once used the bottom of a round flat battery to get a disk mold and found that the little tiny itty bitty numbers on the battery showed up on the resin disk that I made from the mold. The detail was impressive (and inconvenient). The resulting mold is flexible, so you can always easily remove your cast object. Apparently the stuff is food-safe, and also used for candy. I didn't try it.

    Other materials
    Look at the Beading Daily article above if you have not already. They contain the resin with a bezel frame and some sticky tape.

    The frame
    I wanted to make buttons, so instead of a bezel, like Jean used in the tutorial, I used plain round rings. In the beading world, these are either rings (as for your fingers) or links (as from a chain, which you can buy unlinked). I do not want to make my resin projects with sterling sliver, for a variety of reasons, but mostly because it tarnishes, and I'd bet the resin would not fair well with the silver polish.
    I had luck with the following:
    • Agate rings (I like the black ones)

    Butterfly Buttons
    The Butterfly Buttons are framed with black agate rings. They were very easy to make.  I out circles from black and white patterned card stock. Then I mixed the resin and poured about 1/8 of an inch in each ring (stuck firmly on sticky tape). I put in the card stock circles, covered them with a little more resin and let them cure. I added the butterfly beads (Tibetan Silver) and another layer of resin the next day. I am not sure I needed to wait to put in the butterfly beads, but since they were quite heavy, I was worried that they would push the cardstock onto the sticky tape, and I decided that I wanted a thicker layer of resin on the back than that. I have yet to add the shank to these buttons.
    • Stainless steal rings
    Spice Button
    I used a men's stainless steal ring (1 mm width) to frame my spice buttons. I colored the resin in this Spice Button with sage; I also used cinnamon, curry, cayenne pepper and turmeric. The Beading Daily video in the link above has a lot of ideas for coloring resin; this was one of them. The embellishment is Tibetan Silver.
    • Tibetan Silver links 
    Tibetan silver is an inexpensive zinc alloy that does not tarnish. It is a good option for crafters, not making fine jewelry. Do an ebay search for Tibetan Silver to see tens of thousands of examples. Beaders call anything that can be hooked into a chain, "a link," including a plain circle or oval, and including the Tibetan Silver embellishment in the Spice button.

    Searching for any of the above on ebay will yield an enormity of inexpensive options.While I did not have luck with it as of yet, I am optimistic about this last frame option:
    • A plain bangle
    Christmas Ornament
    I up-sized the same technique to make this Christmas ornament, using a bangle as a frame. I had several problems along the way, and need to experiment more with this. One successful idea is to use a bead to make a hole in the final piece. I stuck the very topmost bead in the tree down to the tape before I poured the resin. So the hole in that bead goes through the piece. This technique would work well to leave a hole in a smaller disk as well, to make, for example, a pendant. This ornament is not that pretty in person; the idea is good, but the execution needs work.

    I found a pack of girl's aluminum bangles at Walmart that are a very nice size. The key thing is that your frame must sit flat on the tape, so that the resin does not leak out. Whatever frame you choose, make sure it is flat on one side. I am going to cut some Christmas shapes out of paper using my Silhouette cutter and plop them into those to make some easy ornaments.

    The sticky tape
    Things that don't work well:
    • Avoid contact paper.
    • Avoid overlapping stirps of tape.
    • Avoid duct tape.
    In the Christmas tree above, I used a piece of shelf contact paper instead of sticky tape, since I wanted a bigger piece. Something in the adhesive reacted with the resin, and the result was cloudy. I also found that two overlapping pieces of tape does not work well, since the line where the pieces of tape meet will show up in the resin. Lastly, duct tape does not work well because it is so sticky, the adhesive sticks to the cured resin and is difficult to remove.

    My best results were from
    • Scotch clear packaging tape.
    I bought some of those clear cold-laminating sheets (clear stickers that you stick on something to make it look laminated)  to try my bangles again, but I haven't used it yet.

    What to put into the resin
    You can stick virtually anything into resin. Here are some coloring ideas I tried. The Beading Daily link above has more.
    • Acrylic paint, which sells at Joann's for $0.59 per bottle. I dipped a skewer into the paint, wiped it off a bit and used it to stir up the resin for some very bright translucent colors.
    • Spices (the results still smell very slightly)
    • Microbeads (from Matrtha Stewart)
    My first buttons (See my post here)
    • Flocking to make bright opaque colors
    • Powders (chalk, eyeshadow) also to make opaque colors
    • Objects of all sorts
    • Pictures of things
    • Shrinky dinks
    Fish Button
    I love the idea of using shrinky dinks, but I used Sharpy pens to color the shrinky dink fish here. As you can see, they bled into the resin. I have not tried other permanent markers yet. Probably a fixative of some sort would do the trick as well.

    Tip about including paper into resin
    In the video listed above John Golden suggests coating the paper in Mod Podge before adding it to the resin. If you haven't discovered Mod Podge, get some. It's amazing stuff.


    Saturday, September 4, 2010

    That's me!

    I let my son Benjamin use my stencil with his washable stamp pads this afternoon. He drew me!

    Butterfly Dresses

    I just have to stay up a little later to tell you what I stayed up all night doing. Don't you sometimes wish you had clothes with fabric made using some of the great techniques we use to decorate paper? I find myself slightly tempted by the fabric dyes and paints, but how I do not need another medium to work in.  This project was motivated by that thought, however.

    I drew a dress in Adobe Illustrator, and cut it out of acetate (laser printer transparencies) on my Silhouette cutter. I used removable adhesive to attach the acetate stencil to cardstock and with a make-up dauber, I pushed ink from various stamp pads from the stencil onto the paper, to shade the dress. The butterfly background is unmounted. I lay it face up on the table and inked a large enough portion to cover the dress. Then I put the card with the stencil face down on the background stamp and rubbed it with my fingers. Here are the results:

    I photoshopped these only enough to make it look like they are all on one page, which they are not. It took about 40 dresses before I got the hang of it, but these last three were positively easy.

    Wednesday, September 1, 2010

    More Twinchies

    Here are two more of the four 2x2 inch cards I've made for my swap. The crab card says Collinectes sapidus, which is the scientific name of this type of crab. The Koi card says, "In the blue sky, The koi are swimming. Wonderful weather.-Basho."