Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fair Game

I have the work of a guest designer to share today.

My mother-in-law, who (along with my father-in-law) has been visiting us for the holidays, is an artist, and I always find her comments on the use of color and design in my work very interesting. Although she doesn't actually bead very much herself, she came downstairs today wearing this necklace that she made.

Naturally, I immediately felt compelled to snatch it from her neck and photograph it for the blog. Just a word to the wise - any jewelry that enters my house is fair game. I love her design with its use of the oversized focal stone (Mom didn't remember the type of stone, but it looks like jasper to me - any other thoughts?) - simple yet elegant. The glass dangle was a bit of a found object - something she thinks she dug out of her own mother's jewelry box. She strung them with round lapis beads.

Thanks, Mom, for letting me show this off on the blog. It certainly is nice (and inspiring!) to have creative people in the family.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cashmere De-stash, Part 2

Isn't this a gorgeous color? This is the first cashmere yarn I ever bought. Noro Cashmel, a 100% cashmere yarn in a worsted weight. Now available on eBay along with a few other (smaller) lots. Go here to view. Thanks!

I Believe

The day after Christmas, I dug up an old UFO while continuing to go through my yarn stash. (For the uninitiated, this "UFO" is an Unfinished Object rather than the other kind.) Way back in the mid-1990's, I saw an advertisement in Vogue Knitting for a beautiful sweater pattern by Adrienne Vittadini. The sweater was a muted blue-grey color, had a nice cable pattern knit sideways and a cool fringe on the bottom. I coveted it, but for some reason it never occurred to me to try to knit it. I tucked the magazine into my bookshelf and forgot about it.

In 2003, I was cleaning out my bookcase, came across the issue and found the advertisement again. I decided then that I still loved the sweater, and that it would be a great project to knit. The pattern book by that point had been long out of print, but I did manage to track down a copy through an on-line knitting store after a few weeks of searching. (The photo above is from the book rather than the original advertisement.) The original Vittadini yarn was getting hard to find by then, but I did a few test swatches and discovered I had a yarn in my stash that knit up at the right gauge. So I got to work and produced this:

I believe I spent just a couple days knitting this. At that point, we left for New York for a week - and I never picked it up again. Sigh. There are times when momentum is all in my work and when I lose it, I never regain it.

The funny thing is, though, I came across this project over the weekend while sorting yarn for de-stashing (and I will have another couple lots of cashmere coming up in the next few days). And you know what? I still love that sweater pattern. I think I'm going to start over again - alter the neckline to a roll neck (I don't really care for funnel necks) - maybe change the yarn color (I believe I have enough of the same yarn in a navy blue color).

I can't decide if this is an example of the triumph of optimism over experience, or if I'm truly destined to wear this sweater. Two decades out of date. Err. (But, come on, it's still a beautiful pattern, right? Right???)

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

May Your Holiday Memories Be Sweet

Finally - the gifts are wrapped, the Some Assembly Required Toy (which took about three hours longer to assemble than I was expecting - I love Playmobil, but I hate the hundreds of miniscule parts) has been assembled, everyone is tucked into their beds (excepting Yours Truly, of course) and, as usual, I'm enjoying the quiet before the storm. We managed to get through the whole day without the Short One realizing that it was Christmas Eve - quite surprising, since he's been counting the days until Christmas this year. I feel slightly guilty for not telling him, but I'll be quite happy to be able to sleep in to a regular hour tomorrow morning. I'm positive this will be the last year for such a luxury.

The SO had a small gingerbread house decorating party earlier this week, so I thought I'd do a last minute show and share. The SO's masterpiece is above. The SO, in his time-honored way, did a good bit of the decorating himself. Not that it stayed that understated, of course. An hour later, it looked like this:

As you can probably tell, he's a big fan of pretzels. We appear to have suffered a bit of a missile attack here, though. His friends (and their Moms) made these two cute houses:

Don't you love the square pretzels for windows? Thanks, M., for bringing those, along with the gumdrops. Here's the second one, with a cute chimney:

I had a leftover house form (I made an extra house, to ward against accidents - in case you can't tell, these were all made around the tops of juice cartons), and the SO was quite happy to decorate that one earlier today with his grandparents:

Clearly, restraint is not in my son's vocabulary.

Incidentally, going into the project, I thought it would be difficult to find Necco wafers outside of a novelty candy store. In fact, I ultimately bought the rolls we used here at a local CVS. Who knew they were still so readily available?

I'm taking the weekend off, so here are your links, in case you go into bead withdrawal while celebrating the holiday (for those of you who celebrate Christmas, of course):

A Bead A Day
There is still plenty of time to make some New Year's Eve jewelry! Lisa shares an eye catching bracelet using velvety hearts and chandelier-like egyptian crystals.

Carmi's Art/Life World
Carmi makes huge resin baubles from an ice tray. Jewelry Making
Yellow facted CZ fan pendants become gorgeous earrings with just a little chain.

Beading Arts
Sweet, simple, and silly! Make a barrette that will delight a young girl in your life.

Cindy Gimbrone aka Lampwork Diva
Cindy shares her favorite things this week. You might be surprised to find out what they are!

Art Bead Scene
It's the ABS annual 12 days of Christmas free projects. Twelve days of last minute holiday gifts!

Snap out of it, Jean! There's beading to be done!
Jean offers a project called Supercool which features a great focal by Dustin Tabor!

Barbe Saint John - New Jewelry from Forgotten Artifacts
Eco Friendly Gift Wrap

Jean Campbell
Jean shares a free sparkly necklace project, just in time to whip up for your New Year's Evening wear

Lorelei's Blog: Inside the Studio
Lorelei goes back in time to remind fellow Etsy sellers about Heart-o-Matic!

Earthenwood Studio Chronicles
Melanie makes a chunky, funky necklace with some unusual wooden chain and findings

Strands of Beads
Melissa shares some whimsical lampwork artistry by Debi Cogwell.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Let Them Eat Cake

Tiered Wedding Cake Beads Focals

Debi Cogwell, aka The Palm Tree Queen, has done it again. Deb is one of my favorite lampwork artists for whimsical glass beads (not to mention an all-around great person - always a plus, in my books). I still have her fantastic hand holding a jack-0-lantern bead in my collection - I posted a pic of it on this blog back in 2007.

Well, this cute set of wedding cake beads came up on her website recently, and I just couldn't resist. I love cake beads generally, and I have a big collection of them. However, I'd never seen whole cake beads complete with beaded glass cake stands before. I think the attention to detail really makes these designs. (And believe it or not, they are substantially cuter in person. It's all I can do not to coo over them.)

I already have a design idea for one of these beads, and I'm sure more will follow.

For goodness sake, if you have a weakness for whimsical beads the way I do, please visit her website - you definitely won't be sorry.

Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Technical Difficulties

They say bad things happen in threes, and I'm hoping my recent spate of bad things happening to good (?) technology is now over.

1. A few days ago, the battery on the main cordless phone in the house went on the fritz. Irritating, but I could live with replacing a battery.

2. Saturday, I was in a rush, dumped my laundry in without checking the relevant pockets - and accidentally sent my cell phone through the washing machine. We did bury it and the battery in rice as that recent Yahoo article suggested, but it's still dead as a doornail (doorknob? Whatever. You know what I mean.) This cheesed me off, but, of course, I have no one to blame but myself (and my bad memory).

3. Today, we looked away from the Short One for a few moments while he was playing a computer game on our MacBook - and, when we looked back, he had managed to crack the screen. Great. As much as the SO is significantly more mature than a year ago, sometimes we forget that he's still apt to do funny things at a moments notice. We're still not quite sure how he managed to break the screen, but absent one of his imaginary Mickey Mouse friends giving it a whack, we see no other possible culprits. Needless to say, we've booked time at our local Apple Store to see how much getting it fixed is going to set us back.

I hope your weekend was slightly better than ours. I think I will go console myself by taking another gander at these nifty bead and jewelry links:

A Bead A Day
Lisa shares a special gift she received from a friend, SHRINKY DINK earrings!! Still a great product after all these years!!

Lorelei's Blog: Inside the Studio
Lorelei tested out some cool chain from Rings and Things.

Snap out of it, Jean! There's beading to be done!
Would you like to investgate a lyrical book which explores all areas of your imagination and challenges your creativity? Try Lisa Crone's!

Carmi's Art/Life World
One shrunk sweater equals felted beaded mits for me!

Beading Arts
If you can string stone nuggets onto wire, and if you can crochet a simple chain stitch, then you can make this pretty necklace.

Cindy Gimbrone aka Lampwork Diva
Cindy explains why she chose Lee Krasner's painting "Untitled" for this month's Art Bead Scene Challenge. Jewelry Making
Sparkle plenty with this endless knotted red crystal necklace project!

Art Bead Scene
It's the last ABS monthly challenge of 2009. Are you running out of ideas and inspiration? ABS has just the antidote!

The Writing and Art of Andrew Thornton
Thinking deep thoughts, Andrew offers up a sumptuous bracelet and adds a new bronze charm to his shop.

Strands of Beads
Melissa shares a cute find - sterling silver elephant clasps.

ps. The photo has nothing to do with anything in this post. I snapped the shot one day when the SO and I were playing with his blocks - I just thought it looked cool...

Friday, December 18, 2009

And the Winner Is...

Using my usual scientific method (having the Short One pick a number out of a hat), I have determined that the winner is... SUE!

Sue, please contact me at strandsofbeads[at] (with the @ replacing the [at], as usual) with your mailing details, and I will get these little guys out to you as quickly as possible.

Thanks for playing, everyone!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Whole Santa Thing

Teacher gifts have been made, wrapped and given out, and I can check one thing off of my list of things to do. Small, but significant. Meanwhile, conversations at our house have been taking a seasonal turn:

SO: How can I give the picture I made to Santa if he comes down the chimney?
Me: Well, we could leave it by his cookies and glass of milk.
SO: Cookies? Santa gets cookies?
Me: Sure, he does. It's hard work delivering all of those gifts, you know.
SO: (considering) Well...okay. But only two!

(Ho, ho, ho.)

Calling All Knitters - Cashmere, Anyone??

Jade Sapphire, 2-ply 100% cashmere in "vintage rose"

For reasons unrelated to this post, I have been spending the past couple days rooting around in my yarn stash. I have so much treasure here, it's completely ridiculous. I've decided to let go of a few of the more prized skeins in my collection, including cashmere from Jade Sapphire, Filatura di Crosa, Joseph Galler and Noro. Yep, it's a cashmere yarn sale.

This is probably the worst week imaginable to list stuff on eBay, and my experience listing the five lots I have up there now was as salubrious as ever (which is to say, not at all), but I thought I'd at least try it once, while I have momentum in that direction.

So, if you are a knitter or if you are simply curious, follow this link for examples of the ambrosia of knitting yarn at reduced prices.

Thanks very much!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Little Christmas Giveaway

Okay, I started this post at 2pm and it is now 11:40pm. Alas. This is pretty typical of how my holiday season has been going so far this year.

Now on to the good stuff. These cute little lampworked seasonal beads were given to me by the good folks at Rings & Things, and I've decided that they would do an excellent job in spreading a little (last-minute) holiday cheer. If you would like to find these in your Christmas stocking (or would like to put them in a loved one's Christmas stocking), please leave a comment after this post. I will pick a name at random Friday afternoon.

ADDENDUM: If you use the "Anonymous" post function, be sure to leave your name in the body of the post - so I actually know who is entering!

Please do check back on Friday to see if you won! (Remember, I will need your shipping address post haste, in order to get them out to you by the 25th.)


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Last Dance

I received my advance copies of the January/February 2010 issue of Step by Step Beads in the mail yesterday. This is the last issue of the magazine that will be published. It makes me sad - the magazine was beautifully produced, and I always enjoyed reading it. It was one of the first magazines to which I ever submitted projects, and the editors there always treated my work well.

I'm pleased to be a part of the magazine's "last dance" - I have a necklace project in the issue using one of my double-sided box pendants (see the prototype here).

Thank you, Step by Step Beads - we'll miss you.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Please Somebody Buy This Before I Do

Kate McKinnon
's Soul-Clearing Sale Part II has begun. I am so tempted to buy this Stoplight Ring. The bead is by Sarah Moran - how can you go wrong?

Somebody stop me, eh?

Four Seasons of Beading (Shameless Self-Promo)

I received my advance copy of Barb Switzer's new book, Four Seasons of Beading, a couple days ago. I have two projects in it: a necklace (which also appears on the back cover) and a Christmas tree earring project. Here's the photo of the necklace:

(Incidentally, the necklace was created around a strand of mixed seed pods which I discussed earlier in the year here.)

Anyway, as is usual with the projects that Barb helms, the book is quite beautiful. The projects in the book are organized around, yes, the four seasons, and they range across a satisfying spectrum of styles from cute to sophisticated, elegant to over-the-top - something for every occasion and mood. If you would like to view photos of some of the other projects in the book, trot on over to Annie's Attic and click on the "See More Photos" link.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Into Thin Air

I had a very kind inquiry about my whereabouts earlier today, and I'm checking in to say that I'm completely fine - just feeling a little tired.

I must confess - I arrived home from our Thanksgiving travels not merely uninterested in beads and jewelry but downright disinterested. So disinterested, in fact, that I tucked away the two containers of beads and findings I brought back with me and never even bothered to unpack them. So I ended up taking a bit of unexpected time off.

Instead I have spent the past couple weeks organizing. My husband and I tended toward clutter even before the Short One arrived on the scene. Add in all the SO's accoutrements in the mix along with all of my jewelry designing tools and sheer stash, and it's been chaos in our house for the past several years. My reason finally snapped audibly two weeks ago, and I announced to my family in no uncertain terms that we were going to clean out our living area if it killed us. H. - who is all too familiar with the whole Spouse-on-a-Rampage Syndrome by now - has been speaking to me in that too-reasonable tone of voice one tends to use with the mildly insane since then, but by golly, the house is more liveable than it has been since, uh, 2005. When we moved in.

Anyway, as I say, I received a thoughtful inquiry about my dropping off the face of the blogosphere today, and, after some consideration, I tentatively spent the evening getting caught up on my blog reading. Which got me excited about beads again. Which made me think it's time to get back into the swing of things.

Heck, I even opened up my boxes of new acquisitions. Which brings me to the above photograph. These clasps were completely new to me, and they're the sweetest rendition of your basic lobster claw clasp (elephant trunk clasp?) I've ever seen. Seriously, aren't they cute? Wonderfully functional, too. If you are interested, they are available through Bruce Frank Beads. (EDIT: -but not through their on-line store. You'll have to call them directly if you want to order some. Just FYI!)

Thanks for bearing with me! Have a great weekend.