Saturday, December 24, 2011

Etsy Hearts Beads Team: FEATURED!

Just a short post before the holidays to share some fun and exciting news:

I've been featured on the Etsy Hearts Beads Team Blog!  Whoo!  This is a great team on Etsy - small compared to some but with outstanding team leaders and captains and very supportive members.  Also, talented!

Visit the feature here, and read about other members too!  Or visit the Etsy Hearts Beads Team on Etsy and see our members' awesome designs!

Happy Creating and Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tidy Crafts: Get Your Studio Makeover!



I was contacted by Tidy Crafts through Etsy a couple months ago.  They were looking for crafters and artists to test their products - or so I thought.  I happily replied that I would love to try out their organizers (I can ALWAYS use more organizers for my crafts and beads!) and expected them to send me one of their organizers.  I thought I would get to use it for a while, and then write a review on what I thought of it.  I also shared this information with my local Etsy Group since Tidy Crafts was looking for local testers.

More of my mess.....

Well, a month later I found out that Tidy Crafts had actually been searching for a messy studio/craft area to redo for FREE!  They chose my mess to organize and I was blown away.  Really, me?  Are you sure I'm the one you want to give this amazing gift to?  It's actually kind of embarrassing that my space is such a disaster area.....  A couple weeks later they came by, looked my space over, and started making plans.  A couple days later they came and organized my beads and supplies! 

Baggies + tackle boxes = mess!

The guys were very friendly and VERY generous.  They gave me several spinning organizers, a back board, more little organizers for that, tool hangers, and more.  I couldn't believe the difference in my space.  I went from having a 1 by 2 foot working space to my ENTIRE 6 foot table to work on!  I admit, the entire table didn't stay completely clear, but it's still mostly clear and I can not only bead in my space, but also sew or do other crafts.  It's amazing and wonderful!

I've been loving everything they gave me to try.  The little containers are the perfect size to hold most bead strands, including full hanks of size 11 seed beads (which I use a lot....).  The carousels are awesome for storage, display, and finding the beads I want.  I organized by size and color, and it's so easy to find what I want now!  The little cases are clear, too, which makes it easy to see what's in them and match colors up quickly.  The carousels come in a couple different models, and the one I have "locks" the cases in place so I can travel with them easily.  They seem sturdy and well made, but can be a little brittle in the extreme cold.  So don't drop it in freezing weather!  But really, what isn't brittle when it's that cold outside?!?!?!

 Some of the carousels and other organizers!

My only concern has been with the storage of my pearls.  Pearls are notoriously difficult to store, and I had to come up with a different storage solution than what Tidy Crafts provided.  Pearls need to breath, and can react poorly to plastics or papers, including cardboard.  So I have them stored in open glass containers - it's really helped keep them lustrous!  I've had pearls "rot" on me before (the luster faded and holes appeared in the body of the pearl), so I make certain to store them correctly now!  This isn't an issue with glass pearls, however.

 Look at that space to work in!  (Snowflake tutorial here)

I know this has sounded like a huge promotional advertisement, but I really do appreciate what Tidy Crafts did for me, and I really have liked their products.  I'm not getting paid to endorse them, I'd simply like to give back to this generous company.  They didn't even ask me to carry flyers or business cards with me when I attend craft fairs, or to post on my blog, or anything!  It was a free giveaway with no strings attached.  Very generous! And it's helped me stay organized, design more jewelry quicker, and even do other crafts (such as sewing) in the same space!  How awesome is that?!!?

Tidy Crafts is giving away a monthly makeover (I'm not sure how long this promotion will be going on), so if you live in SE Idaho, go check out their Facebook page for details.  It's a makeover for any craft, not just beading!  If you live elsewhere and still want to check out their supplies, here's their website

Happy Beading,

Saturday, December 10, 2011

DIY: Child's Advent Calendar - Felt & Velcro Fun!

I should have posted this project in November, before Advent Calendar season, but I only finished it DAYS before December myself!  Still, I hope you enjoy and that it inspires you to create your own advent calendar!

Advent Calendar: Background, Background w/Pillow Figures, Background after 2.5 year old plays w/it!

I remember having several advent calendars growing up - paper ones, cloth ones, ones with pockets - but they all disappeared when I moved out of the house!  Grama cannot find them.  Well, with a little one in the house and another one the way, I decided we needed one!  We looked a little in stores and on Etsy - there are many cute ones on Etsy - but they were not what I wanted.  I didn't want literal drawers/doors to open, my child doesn't need more candy/toys, I wanted flaps to flip or magnets to move - something child-friendly to play with unsupervised!

Pillow Figures: child-friendly advent calendar counters!

So what did I do?  I decided to make my own calendar this year!  So with Grama's help, we designed and sewed this fun, child friendly countdown to Christmas calendar!  Materials are simple - felt, patterned fabric, velcro, time, and patience!  Oh, and a sewing machine greatly speeds the process along....try choosing thread colors that blend into your other colors for a neater look in the end.  Using red on the bobbin, and other colors on the spool, for example, made the back of the calendar look almost as nice as the front!

First I decided on a size - I chose 2x3 feet.  I wanted room for my little one to play!  I cut the background (red) and stitched a border around the edges.  This helps prevent the felt from stretching a little, but also distracts from, ahem, uneven edges!  Plus it looks nice, right?!  The next step was to determine how many tabs I needed to hang the calendar up.  I used 3, but 4 or 5 would NOT have been too much!  I chose to hang mine from a bamboo rod from a ribbon on a door.  Works great so far!

Tabs & Border

I free-handed the background felt pieces and edge stitched them down to the background next.  Cut everything out and lay it out.  Move/trim as needed until you are happy with the background design!  Then start sewing the pieces down - I suggest one at a time.  Sky, snow, tree trunk, tree bottom, tree middle, tree top, & star was the order I went in.  Also consider sewing curving lines throughout the large felt pieces to help tack them to the background - otherwise when the velcro pieces are pulled from the background the felt will pucker/pull away from the background (red felt in my case).

Next comes the numbers!  We chose a font on the computer, printed out the numbers in the size we wanted them (about 2x3 inches), and traced them onto the felt.  Grama decided to try "gluing" the numbers down with an iron-on adhesive.  This worked for placing the numbers and tacking them down, but this is not permanent on felt.  There just isn't enough packed fibers to really grab onto the numbers!  So we tacked them down, then chose a wiggly stitch to finish the numbers off with - they aren't going anywhere now!

 Embroidered "Merry Christmas" & some other decorative elements....

While I worked on the embroidery (my sewing machine does it, thank goodness!  I'm horrible at hand sewing....), Grama cut out all the figures.  We perused the fabric stores for cute prints with largish (1.5-5 inch prints) figures on them.  We chose snowmen, Santa Claus, penguins, snowflakes, and ornament-like prints.  We looked high and low for reindeer, but didn't find any!  After cutting them out, we cut out matching felt backgrounds, sewed on a piece of velcro to the felt, then sewed the background to the print (outsides together).  We turned the pillows right-side out, filled with stuffing, and stitched closed.  I chose the stitch all the way around the figures to give a more finished look....

The embroidery took a little planning, and as you can see, it still didn't end up centered!  That's okay - I purposely stitched letters up and down from the center line because I knew I would never have them perfectly inline, and then adding other elements distracts from the fact that Merry Christmas is a bit off-centered...maybe I meant it to look like that.....My machine had several patterns on it already, but other embroidery patterns are from Ann the Gran and Embroidery Designs.  They have a nice *free* selection too!

Reindeer Embroidery from Brother Designs

We had a lot of fun making the Advent Calendar and now my children can have fun playing with it!  It's holding up well, I'm happy to report, and getting a lot of use.  In another year or so she might actually use it to count down to Christmas!  I don't think I'll be making another one any time soon, however.  The two of us worked together for a week, and I worked another several days alone, before finally finishing it!  I think it should make a lovely "heirloom" piece, though!

Happy Creating,

Saturday, December 3, 2011

DIY SNOWFLAKES: Easy, Solder-Free, Wire & Beads

It's December, and I can't get Christmas off my mind!  Everywhere I drive or walk, every time I turn the radio on, or even turn around in my own house, there are Christmas decorations!  My household is still fairly young, and we don't have that many decorations yet, so I always feel there is room for more around the holidays.

This year I decided to make some of my own beaded snowflakes to add to our collection for several reasons:

     1) My husband hates glitter.  Almost all snowflakes in stores have glitter galore!

     2) We, like most families, need to watch our finances and making snowflake ornaments (depending on  your materials) is cheaper.

     3) I enjoy making things and always like designing new patterns!

     4) I have tons of beads and wire already at home - just waiting to be turned into something awesome!

     5) I get exactly (well, maybe not exactly....) what I want when I make my own decorations!

     6) I love sharing!  What better tutorial to share around the holidays than how to make your own decorations for less?!?!?  These snowflakes are quick and easy to make - they can decorate trees, garlands, chandeliers, windows - you name it!  They also make nice additions to Christmas gift packages or as stocking stuffers!  you can even make them in your favorite sports team's colors!

So where did I start?  The awesome internet, of course!  I searched for patterns that were already out there, I admit.  I was looking for inspiration!  I found inspiration, but not a pattern I really liked.  Many beaded snowflake patterns ask for a premade wire armature that you just fill with beads.  I wasn't interested in that.

Next were patterns that required the use of a soldering iron and solder - I have access to these but didn't really want to fiddle with solder......Finally, ALL patterns were of the spoke variety (upper right snowflake in the image below) - where the snowflake arms radiate outwards from a center point.  These are pretty, but I was looking for something more inspired....and more accurate.  Snowflakes generally have 6 sides because of the shape of the water molecule - so I wanted mine to have 6 sides/arms too!

My First Snowflakes!

Above are my first attempts - these are made from antique chandelier beads.  I believe they are faceted glass instead of crystal, but don't really know for sure!  I was given the bunch by an aunt several years ago.  The largest snowflake (upper left) was my 1st.  It's pretty, but takes over an hour to make and I was looking for something a little quicker - I have plenty of time-consuming projects already on my plate!  The small ones were next, followed by my version of a spoke snowflake (upper right), and finally by the lower left one that is fully enclosed. 

After playing around with beads and wire for a couple days, I had "perfected" a simple, quick, and pretty snowflake pattern!  I was ready to make a bunch of snowflakes based primarily on one pattern, with some variations as I went along.  Here are some of my snowflakes made using the pattern provided here:

My 1st (repeatable) Snowflake Pattern!

And without further ado, here the pattern is for you to also enjoy!  Try other beads, other colors, and definitely other bead combinations to spice up your own snowflake collection with variety and fun!

You will probably need to download the above image/directions in order to see the images and read the directions.  Please feel free to distribute this pattern to friends and family - but DO NOT duplicate with the intent to sell.  If I wanted to see this pattern sold, I could do it myself!  I'd also appreciate it if you'd credit me for the design, should anyone ask.  Thank you so much for understanding and being respectful of me and my designs - I try to do the same for every other artist and crafter out there!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy Creating Everyone!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Rocks, Stones, Natural Found Objects - Awesome Finds for Jewelry Making!

I recently picked up a couple rocks from the local chapter of the Rock and Mineral Club.  They had a wonderful show and I couldn't help but pick out some tumbles native rocks of Idaho for use as pendants and magnets, too!  While I love gemstones and imported, cut stones, sometimes a more down-to-earth statement piece is nice too.

I've created some fun pendants with rocks and stones I've picked up on my travels, but here are my latest creations with Rocks of Idaho, the 1st one features tiger iron and the 2nd one is a simpler blue-black rock.....and then I'll show you some additional pieces by other jewelry artists!

Rocks of Idaho I by PZ Designs

Rocks of Idaho II by PZ Designs

Wonderful and beautiful pieces by others:

Just think of the beautiful jewelry you can make the next time you pick up a stone, a rock, a shell, or other natural found object!  And if you aren't inclined to wire-wrapping techniques, then check out a local artist or handmade artist on Etsy, Artfire, or other online revenue!  

If you are interested in the featured pieces or other works by these artists, please follow the links in the titles.  I've linked them to DeviantArt accounts, and from there you can view the artist's galleries and contact them!

Happy creating,

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Memory Wire - More Versatile Than You May Think!

I've been absent of late for many reasons, but one reason is that I've recently taken a job at Michael's Craft Store as a Jewelry Instructor!  I have my first class tomorrow, and it's on using memory wire.  I've played around with this medium before, but now I realize that it is useful and fun for so many types of jewelry and decoration projects!

The most basic memory wire project is the bracelet - it often looks like a matched bangle set when worn.  Seed beads, crystals, and pearls are all common beads used in this project.  Here are some less basic memory wire bracelet designs:

Another basic memory wire project is the necklace - it can be as complex as the bracelet, with several loops, or simplified down to a single loop for a stunning look!  Here are a couple necklaces that I think stand out among the rest:

Less often seen, but just as cool, is the memory wire ring!  I've chosen one ring to show you below, but there are as many designs out there as you can imagine:

Another project that can be accomplished with memory wire in the ring size is wine charms.  The pieces below use actual wine charm wires, but you can see how memory wire would serve the same function:

A final project that I'm hoping to make this coming Holiday Season is a memory wire dangle (for lack of a better name).  I plan on using memory wire in the bracelet or necklace size, stringing it in reds, greens, and golds, and embellishing it with small ornaments or Christmas-themed charms.  Then, you hang one end up and let the rest "dangle"!  I think it would be a cute way to hang mistletoe as well.....

I couldn't find an artist's version of the ornament, but here is a simpler commercial version if you can't quite visualize it.....hopefully I'll post my own photos soon!

EDIT:  I haven't made the Christmas Ornament with memory wire yet, but I did make a fun necklace with dangles!  It could easily be made into the ornament I mention above simply by using more loops.....

I'm sure there are other designs out there, so please share!  Happy Creating, PZ

Monday, May 30, 2011

Polymer Clay - A versatile jewelry medium

I can't believe I haven't posted about polymer clay jewelry yet!  I've seen marvelous artworks created in this medium - and I have to admire the detail and work that goes into these pieces.  I've tried working with polymer clay, modeling clay, firing clay - they are all similar and yet so different!  What's common for me, however, is that I can't create marvelous works in these mediums.....not like the following jewelry artists, anyway.  Clay is simply not my medium - I prefer hard materials such as wood and metal, or pencil drawings and beaded jewelry.  I like control, which I simply do not have with clay.

These 6 artists clearly know how to manipulate polymer clay into beautiful and wondrous designs!  Control over this medium isn't a problem, then, but maybe it's still a challenge?!

Without further ado, here's some amazing polymer clay jewelry:

This is only a small sampling, both from these artists and in polymer clay jewelry and art.  These pieces were selected from DeviantArt (DA) and you can follow the links above to the artists' pages there.  There are many other artists on DA that work with polymer clay, and many of them also have Etsy or other online shops and websites.  Peruse the art - enjoy the view!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

DIY Organization - Jewelry Holder for Necklaces or Bracelets

I have a lot of necklaces, and only one jewelry box, so what I actually have is one big knot!  It takes 5-10 minutes every morning just to disentangle part of the mess.  I tend to wear the same two necklaces all week so I don't have to deal with it.  That means another 20 or so necklaces just lie about......

Sound familiar?  Tired of it?  I was - and I finally decided to do something about it!  I searched the web for some DIY jewelry organizers or holders.  I found several that were quite well done or unique - including one where a rake head was used to hang necklaces on the back of a door!  Fun, fun.....  But I didn't want to buy a rake head, or anything if I could help it.....

So I looked around the house to see what I had.  I had a weathered but solid wood board that needed a little sanding.  I had ribbon.  I had cloth with a pretty pattern.  I had tacks.  I even had sandpaper and a saw to even the board edges.  The only thing I was missing?  Hooks!  There are some really cool hooks out there, but I was going for volume instead of decor.  Meaning what?  I wanted BIG hooks instead of small fancy ones.  But if you don't need volume but want more class, be sure to check out the hook section of home improvement stores.  There are some lovelies - including fleur-di-lis!

This project took me less than an hour after I had all the materials together.  It's quick, simple, and (I think) elegant.  At least more elegant than a knot in my jewelry my jewelry box houses my less tangled bracelets instead!  Though a second hook board would certainly work for bracelets too....hmmmm....I even have left over fabric!


Wood - cut to length, sanded smooth
Fabric - doubled and cut so it overlaps 1-2 inches onto the back of the board
Hooks - style and number up to you!
Tacks/small nails - shorter than the board is thick (don't want them going through!)
Hanging fixtures - framing wire & eye hooks work well, plus wall hook

Ribbon - optional decoration
Sandpaper - optional for smooth wood, fine grit (220-400)
Saw - optional if wood needs to be cut
Stapler - optional, or an alternative to using tacks


1) Cut the board to length.  Sand smooth - edges most important to avoid splinters and cutting fabric on edges.

2) Layout fabric and place board on top.  I chose to double the thickness of fabric.  Cut the fabric so it folds onto the back of the board by 1/2 - 2 inches.

3) Fold edges of fabric under.  Iron if you wish, but I just held it folded over.  I like it quick and easy!  Besides, it's the back of my personally jewelry holder.....

4) Tack down fabric to wood.  I started on the short edges and moved to the longer edges.  Either way, pull the fabric tight evenly so you don't skew the pattern.  Instead of tacking down an entire side, move from side to side, edge to edge until you tack all the way around.  Look up how to tack down canvas on a handmade frame if you are totally lost!

5) Admit that using a stapler would be easier.  I chose tacks because my stapler was broken and I had pretty gold tacks lying about.....

6) Admire your work so far!  Then chose if you want to add ribbon to it or not.  I liked the look.  Wrap with ribbon.  Tape or more tacks may be necessary if you want your ribbon rigidly in place.

7) Add your chosen hanging fixtures to the back.

8) Go back to the front of your necklace holder and mark where you want your hooks.  Or, randomly place them!  Tack or screw your hooks down.  The fabric may twist initially, but it usually lays flat after a couple turns.  You could cut small holes if this is a problem.....

9) Hang up your new necklace/jewelry holder and start sorting out that knot for the last time!

10) Wear any necklace you want any day you want without fuss and frustration!  Yay!

If you have a similar jewelry organizer or holder, please share!

Happy Creating,

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Looking at the Blog Layout & Design

I decided it was time for a new look for my blog.  There have been a lot of changes going on at home, and  just couldn't make the changes I wanted to with my old blog layout.  I miss it, sure, but this one is more versatile, colorful, and in tune with the current me.

After changing the look of my blog, I decided to peruse other people's blogs.  I have a lot favorited and some I follow.  I started to really look at these blogs - was the blog somewhere to put pictures and connect with other people?  Undoubtedly.  Was it a work of art?  Usually, no.  Why is that?  Why not make the blog beautiful too?

Well, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder, no?  Of course other people will think my blog ugly, no doubt, and that their blog is so cool, or lovely, or fun.  I concede, this is the case.  So what makes a blog a good one?  It has to be more than just looks, I admit.  But can't the goodness include the layout and colors and background as well?

I chose a couple blogspot blogs that I thought stood out.  They are more than the basic layout.  They have changed colors, added photos, changed backgrounds, and changed fonts.  I think changing fonts is a biggy - at least in the title and the headers!  It adds interest, grabs the attention of the viewer, and makes the blog stand out a bit.  If you have something important to say, why not say it with a little style?!

Sophia's World Blog 

GladRaggz Blog 

Crow's Creek Blog 
These blogs have more than just nice layouts, mind you.  I'm showing them because of the look of the blog, but they have some nice crafty items to show you and some are even for sale!  So check out more than just the pretty pictures, enjoy, and think about your favorite blogs.  Click on the image to be taken to the blog!

Is there more to them than their stories?  The posts are the meat of the blog, but I like the trimmings, too.  I've shown you a nice bright one, a colorful one, and a moody dark one.  Three themes, three moods! 

I had a hard time finding unique blogs to show you - so please share any fabulous ones that you have found or created!  One thing I did notice was that scrapbookers have more artsy blog backgrounds than the average crafter - I dare you to show me otherwise!

Soon to come - a photo tutorial on wire flowers, or on how to cheaply refinish a dying dining table top.....

Thanks for reading and happy creating!