Saturday Morning Tea

It is a gorgeous late summer morning here in New England with brilliant sunshine and low humidity. A soft breeze ruffles the treetops as I sit out on my back deck and listen to them sigh. A good morning for sitting out in nature and being still.

Several weeks ago I reviewed a tea called Heavy Baked Tie-Guan-Yin Oolong and I discovered that I had never reviewed a Jade Oolong, a tea upon which that particular tea is based. Well, this morning I brewed some up in my favorite glass teapot.

Oolongs are allowed to oxidize at varying times thus creating some that are more towards green tea and some that are much darker than that. A Jade Oolong is only oxidized for a short amount of time, about 18%. As you can see, this creates a tea that is very pale yellow.

A luscious flowery aroma greets me as I pour my first cup.

During processing, the leaves are rolled into curly shapes that gently release during the steeping. Sweet and rich, the liquor is buttery soft with a pleasing lilac note. I steeped the leaves in 180 degree water for 3 minutes.

If you want to try multiple steepings, shorten your steeping times.

My youngest son leaves for Basic Training with the Air Force in 2 days. He’s been trying to go early all summer but it didn’t happen. It seems his military training began earlier with this first exercise in patience. I’m so proud of him. Today we are having a big family dinner to send him off with good wishes and love. Between that and a little soreness in my right wrist, my freeform bracelet will also have to wait patiently for my return.

The Birth of a Freeform Peyote Bracelet – Part 2

Here is what I’ve accomplished today. You can see how I am starting to place the beads in such a way so that the colors are drifting into each other. This will soften that striped look. Because I’m using various size beads, the bracelet starts to get a bit wavy but I can adjust that as I go along by where I place the beads and how many I place.

Sometime I place 2 same size beads at once to fill in a space.

To add a larger size 6 bead, I sandwich it between smaller size 11 beads and make a little bridge by skipping more than the usual one bead.

Or, instead of staying on one side of the bracelet, I can move to the other side by placing size 15 beads (the lighter ones) across the top.

I love to add pearls because they give a lustrous, organic look. Another little bridge. Play with the placement and see which beads work best. Follow your inner voice.

Sometimes bridges can go across to the other side. Those green chips are peridot. I found them at a bead show I went to last spring. The clarity is amazing.

A closeup of one side.

And the other side.

If you want a thinner bracelet, all that’s left to do is to add beads in such a way to even it out and then add a bead/button and loop clasp. The clasp is beaded in a freeform way so that it fits right in with the rest of the bracelet. Because I’m having such a wonderful time with this, I’ve decided to continue beading and make this bracelet wider. Stay tuned for more progress…

The Birth of a Freeform Peyote Bracelet – Part 1

When I woke up yesterday morning, I discovered that the power was off. That was strange because we hadn’t had any storms overnight nor was it terribly windy. I called the power company to be told that they were working on the wires up the street and the power would be restored by 10am. Ok, I guess I could wait for my cup of tea until then. I waited patiently, writing 3 pages of Morning Pages and doing a little reading in my current book, Happy for No Reason. 10am came and went and I called the power company again only to get their automated power outage line. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who had called in. Without lights, there was no working in my studio so I brought some beadwork out on the deck where there was plentiful sunshine. The power came back on about 7:30 last night when I was out having dinner with a friend who I hadn’t seen in 3 years.

So, what did I do yesterday, you ask? Out there on my sunny deck, another freeform peyote bracelet was born.

I chose 9 different beads in various sizes – 11s, 8s and 6s – and strung about 10-15 beads of each color for a total of 6 inches. I used 2 of the beads twice in my strand for a total of 11 sections. I always string an even number of beads on a neutral color Silamide thread. Silamide is a twisted 2-ply prewaxed thread that has been used by dressmakers for years. Here’s some great information about it. I’ve been using this thread for years now and I really like it. I used to always use Nymo but it tangled too much on me even when I waxed it. I think that the best thread to use is whatever you feel comfortable with and works well for you. Before I added all of my beads, I added one bead, leaving a 6 inch tail, and looped the thread around to go through that bead again. This creates what is called a “stop” bead which prevents the beads from falling off your thread.

In peyote stitch, I added the second row of beads, stopping to tighten every 3 beads or so. You can see how the sections are more accentuated now.

I then added a third row.

From now on I will start adding beads so that the bracelet doesn’t look so striped. I do this by drifting the colors into each other. In my next installment, I’ll show how I do this.

I absolutely love this way of beading. You don’t have to follow a pattern, only a technique and even then, you will be improvising on the technique here and there. Every freeform piece you create is totally unique and expresses your voice, what you were experiencing, thinking of and feeling in the moment. What colors shall I use? Shall I put this color next to that color? What size beads? The more sizes you use, the more textural and wavy your piece will become. It’s a wonderful way to experiment with different beads. There isn’t a right way or wrong way to do it. Just get in the flow and add one or two beads at a time and see where the beads lead you.

A freeform peyote bracelet – the color palette

I’m going to create another freeform peyote bracelet and have picked out my color palette. Some of these beads were used in my faux jade fringy bracelet. I have been very drawn to this muted red/green palette for awhile now.

I thought it would be fun to document my creative process here, step by step. I’ve had this idea in my head for months now and am excited that my life has now slowed down enough to be able to finally do this. Of course, I am still working on my beaded journal page and beaded cabochons, too. Having several projects going at once keeps me motivated and fresh in my process. With each project, I always get to a certain point where it needs to be put down for awhile so the next step can be worked out internally. That’s when I turn to one of my other projects.

Stay tuned for “The Birth of a Freeform Peyote Bracelet”.

Saturday Morning Tea

The last few days have been filled with tons of lightning, rumbling thunder and more torrential downpours. This certainly has been the summer of storms here in New England. I’m hoping that all of this tumultuous weather will herald in a crisp, clear fall season with plenty of sunshine.The plants are just loving this weather, especially the tropical hibiscus and plumeria on our back deck. They feel like they’re home in the rainforest, I think. One of the hibiscus plants is almost 6 feet tall!

On this cool, misty morning, I felt like something dark and smoky. This morning’s cup is a China black Lapsang Souchong named Gao Ji. To be perfectly frank, I’m not a lover of a very smoky tea like a Lapsang but I want to expand my tastes and give it another try. This particular tea is a lot milder than the characteristic smokiness. I searched for the meaning of Gao Ji and found it in a Pinyin dictionary. The translation to English is “high ranking” or “high grade”.

Lapsang Souchong tea, grown in the Wuyi region of the Fujian province of China, is known for its distinctly very smoky aroma and taste. During its processing, the leaves are dried over wood fires which impart that smoky quality to the leaf. In essence, the leaves are “smoked’ in their drying. The story goes that many years ago the tea processing had to be sped up as armies marched through that region so the villagers dried the tea leaves over open pinewood fires.

A new type of tea was born.

Chinese black or “congou” tea is also referred to as red tea. The liquor on this tea really supports that terminology. The aroma is lightly smoky with a hint of chocolate. The liquor is mild, sweet and lightly winey/smoky, reminding me of a very high quality Keemun. It is smooth with only a passing tang in the finish.

The tea appears much darker in my pottery cup. Whenever it rained, a friend of mine always said that it was a great day for a Keemun. In that spirit, I think that this is a great tea for cooler weather. As we enter the second half of August, we are still over a month away from the official first day of fall but I can feel its whisper in the air already.