Ribbon Bracelets

Throughout all of my years of playing with seed beads, one of my most favorite off loom stitches is herringbone weave. Also known as Ndebele stitch, it is the traditional beading stitch of the South African Ndebele tribe. They create the most amazing beadwork in colorful, geometric patterns which they also paint onto their houses. I imagine a beautiful village full of vibrant color and pattern where women sit in a circle and bead together.

With this stitch, pairs of beads are woven in such a way that they stand in a v-shape next to each other, creating a very strong fabric of beads. I just love the feel of this bead “fabric”.

In my playtime with this weave, I created these bracelets that remind me so much of colorful ribbon. They feel wonderful encircling my wrist and are a great way to showcase a special bead or button as part of the clasp.

For my bracelets’ clasps (in the order above), I used a beaded Swarovski rivoli, a stamped and gilded polyclay button and my version of polyclay faux turquoise. For my faux turquoise version, I used Tory Hughes’ faux amber technique (from her book “Polymer, The Chameleon Clay“) and just used turquoise-colored clay instead. A simple peyote stitch loop completes the clasp.

I used size 11 seed beads woven with 6 lb. “smoke” Fireline thread and to create interest, I inserted size 6 beads down the middle length. I love the idea of embedding beads with this stitch and would love to explore this idea further by placing the embedded beads in a random pattern. Does anyone know how to do free-form herringbone? That’s another idea I’d like to play with.

Tomorrow morning I travel to Michigan to visit my family so there won’t be a Saturday Morning Tea post this weekend. I will rejoin you the following Saturday to share a cup of tea once again. During my time in MI, I’m looking forward to another trip to Beadhaven in Frankenmuth. Their seed bead selection is beyond fabulous! Oh joy!

Have a wonderful week, dear friends.

Making Earrings in the Build Zone

Right on the heels of the Of Towers and Turrets workshop I took online, I decided to sign up for Deryn Mentock’s The Build Zone workshop. I like Deryn’s down-to-earth teaching style and since I’ve been resurrecting my wireworking skills lately, I thought it would be a great refresher experience for me.

Just as its name implies, this class is all about building skills so you can create a fabulous piece of jewelry. Some of the skills I’ve learned in this class are making a balled headpin using a torch (now I have 2 torches!), making S-links with wire (see above) and making twisted wire jumprings (see below), to name a few.

My ultimate goal is to bring together all of the skills I’ve learned in this workshop and create a necklace. Since I have very limited studio time these days, all I’ve managed to do so far is to collect some beads and a focal piece. I originally thought that I’d create a polymer clay focal but I happened to be out bead shopping one day and this whimsical, winged fairy pendant sort of jumped out at me. She’s so sweet that I decided to bring her home so she could be the focal of a mystical, “Midsummer Night’s Dream”-y piece. Hey, maybe I can get my necklace done by midsummer…

I love these earrings. They’re very long but quite lightweight for their size. Whenever I wear them, I have this compulsion to keep turning my head back and forth because I love the feel of them swinging against my neck!

After a long, hard New England winter, I’ve felt a burst of spring’s energy lately that has inspired me to dig out the numerous bead-y UFOs strewn about my studio, some I started a couple of years ago. It feels great to line them all up on my table and dream about where I was when I started them and where I would like to go to finish each piece.

Spring has returned.  The Earth is like a child that knows poems.

~Rainer Maria Rilke

Playing with Wire


I’ve been fascinated with wire for as long as I can remember.

I love its versatility and strength for jewelry making. You can bend it into shapes, use it for connections and wrap it around beads. And it’s such an accessible form of metal, requiring only a few simple hand tools to manipulate into a beautiful creation.

When I was visiting my son and his family in Albuquerque last November, we visited a LBS, Mama’s Minerals. It was a good thing that Brendan was with me or I would have become lost in the vortex of bead lust, putting myself into extreme debt and not being able to close my suitcase! If you’re ever in Albuquerque in search of beads, I recommend a stop at this amazing store.

Anyway, we had decided to create a bracelet for my SIL for Christmas and it was up to Bren to choose the beads. I love his choice, don’t you? Before he started his quest, I gently suggested beads that had a southwest feel to them and these Saturn jasper beads he chose, in bands of turquoise and brown, are just perfect.

I love the look of the antiqued, coiled wire against the striking banding in the stone.

Shortly after I came home, I picked up Kerry Bogert’s book, Totally Twisted: Innovative Wirework & Art Glass Jewelry, at the library and became enchanted with Kerry’s colorful wire designs. I chose the project on page 88, “Framed”, for the bracelet.

You can’t really tell from the photos but the wire coils are made from copper wire and the wire wraps on the beads, as well as the clasp, are made from sterling silver wire. I love the look of mixed metals and silver and copper are my favorites.

This was a great project to hone my wireworking skills, especially for wire coiling. I used a tiny double pointed knitting needle for that job.

I love this design so much that I think I’m going to make a bracelet for myself now! I have the beads picked out already – round coins of earthy Owyhee jasper. This is a great description I came across recently – “soft earthy colors of clay, teal, sage, brick, sand, umber with brush strokes of bark brown”. Wow.  It’s a beautiful picture jasper, mined in southern Idaho/eastern Oregon.

When I was a kid, I owned a well thumbed, dog-eared copy of a pocket-sized rocks and minerals book. I used to pour over that book for hours…I just love rocks.

My Towers and Turrets pendant necklace

Last August I signed up for an online class called “Of Towers and Turrets”, a wonderful melding of mixed media collage with metalwork and resin, taught by Sharon Tomlinson and Deryn Mentock. I wrote about the first step here, creating my collage.

Once my collage was created, I started work on my metal Towers pendant, which taught me about cutting metal shapes, soldering filigree and bezel wire as well as riveting, all new techniques that I was quite excited to add to my jewelry making repertoire.

Once the pendant was crafted, I chose a part of my collage to display. As this was the first face I’ve ever painted, the choice was easy! Once she was cut out and gently placed in my bezel, I carefully covered her with Ice resin, a product I’ve never used before and absolutely love now. It’s tricky mixing it up, adding just the right amount to the bezel and then getting rid of all of the tiny bubbles but the results are so worth it. A desk lamp placed right over my pendant got rid of all of the bubbles very nicely. The heat of the light bulb draws up the bubbles so they can pop.

Once the pendant was complete, I decided to create a necklace using deep purples, reds and blues to bring out the colors in my pendant image. My goal was to create a richly colored necklace full of facets and sparkle.

A queenly necklace.

I chose amethyst, iolite, garnet, pearl, crystal, moonstone and 2 raku beads. I wire wrapped each bead, adding them on one at a time. Creating a necklace in this fashion is very tedious and time consuming but gave me just the look I wanted.

The S-clasp was crafted from a thicker wire and then wrapped with a thinner wire coil and an iolite bead.

It took me 5 months to complete this process but it was an amazing journey that taught me so much about myself.

“The eyes of my eyes are opened.” ~e.e. cummings

Saturday Morning Tea

This past week has been sooooo cold here in New England and it’s not even officially winter yet. Yesterday morning brought single digits temps to our area. Brrr… 10 more days til Winter Solstice and the longest night of the year. I’ve often thought about how our early ancestors must have felt, experiencing the growing darkness and not knowing that it would eventually recede and the lighter days would come back again. No wonder there was much celebration at this time of year, honoring the Return of the Sun.

Ok, on to tea. My morning tea is an Oolong from China, appropriately called Eastern Beauty with its gorgeous full leaf and amazing honeyed aroma.

Back in August, I dedicated the whole month to Oolong, or Wulong, teas. You can start reading about this wonderful type of tea here.

I steeped the tea leaves for 4 minutes in 180 degree F water.

The intense honey aroma greeted me as I poured my first cup. Mmmm….

I love how the color of the liquor reflects the distinct aroma of this tea.

So warm and inviting.

The flavor is silky smooth with notes of honey and flowers and a hint of chestnut in the finish. At this gift buying time of year, a sample of this tea would make an exquisite gift for the Oolong lover on your list. I know that it’s going in a few of my stockings.

You’ve probably noticed the amazing art paper I’ve used as a background today. My dear friend, Amy, found it during her recent trip to Italy. Over dinner the other night, she told us how when they discovered the shop that her husband knew she would be in there for awhile. I’m honored with her beautiful gift. Thanks Amy!

I know that I’ve been sorely neglecting the “art” part of my blog these past months. During this busy time of year, it’s been so challenging to get any kind of time in my studio. What I have been up to though is gift making with my pointy sticks to bring warmth to heads, necks and hearts. My goal in the new year is to get back to my art and sharing it with all of you.

“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.
~Nathaniel Hawthorne

Saturday Morning Tea

This morning we travel from Japan, where we’ve been tea-wise for the last month, to Sri Lanka. In contrast to the vegetal greens I’ve been enjoying, this morning I chose a dark, rich black tea with beautiful silver tips from New Vithanakande.

Its FBOPF leaf style, designated for this long, wiry, twisted leaf, is unique for a Ceylon tea. You know the tea that comes in teabags from the grocery store, the kind that we might have drunk when we were sick as kids? Well, that leaf style is called “fannings”, a very finely-particled leaf that fits into those bags easily and steeps very quickly. Astoundingly, this leaf has that same designation which is what the last “F” stands for. It’s because this skinny leaf can fit through the smallest sieves during the leaf sorting process. Amazing, huh?

The good news is that, unlike last week, this leaf fits nicely into my glass infuser and doesn’t fall through the narrow slits at all. The leaf swells during steeping but doesn’t unfurl from its tightly rolled shape.

Glorious color!

The wet leaf looks like a bunch of twigs but it’s actually twisted tea leaves. The aroma is bright with a sweet molasses note.

This tea is grown in the Ratnapura district, located in southern Sri Lanka. I’ve read that this district is the home of gem mining as well as a crossroads where hill country and plains come together. This tea is processed at a factory supporting 6,000 small landholders and their families. You can read more about it here. In this respect, the tea is similar to a Japanese tea in that it is named after the place that processes the tea not the tea garden.

The rich, dark amber liquor has the brightness of a Ceylon tea along with notes of caramel and molasses, a rich, sweet taste. I put a drop of milk in my second cup to smooth out the brightness.

One of my favorite color combinations – a blend of orange and dusky purple, like dark clouds against an autumn sunset.

A light gray blanket of clouds hangs from the sky, lighting the last of the dark copper leaves clinging to the tree branches. Despite the gloominess of the day, my thoughts are on next spring as I hope to plant some daffodil and tulip bulbs into the earth today.

My hours at work have lengthened as the light of the days grows shorter. This has resulted in much less time in my studio which I’m sure you’ve noticed as I haven’t posted any artwork in awhile. Sometimes when I stop and think about it, a wave of sadness washes over me and I yearn for a stretch of time where I had nothing to do except to play in my studio. But it is what it is and I take comfort in creating some holiday gifts from my pointy sticks in the evenings, hot cup of tea by my side.

Today is my granddaughter Ella’s second birthday and I am looking forward to traveling out to New Mexico very soon to see her and also my new grandson, Landon, who is due to arrive in this world this week. I take so much joy in these blessed family events!

Have a wonderful weekend, dear tea friends.

“But if you have nothing at all to create, then perhaps you create yourself.” ~Carl Jung