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!