Friday, July 29, 2011

Mia's Strawberry Shortcake Quilt Completed!

I had hoped to post these pictures last week on my New Hampshire adventure, but I just never managed to get around to it.  Here are a few pictures of the finished quilt in it's new home.
Hanging over the crib that will be Mia's after Ari outgrows it.
Helpfully held-up by my brother, and proud father, Joe.
 The pieced back is not *perfectly* centered, as I would have liked.  But somehow I think Mia will forgive me.
I have to admit that after stitching all the binding on by hand, I really was craving some good old fashioned strawberry shortcake, so I made some for my parents and I.  Buttermilk biscuits, split, buttered, and grilled till golden and crispy along the edges, drenched in strawberries and whipped cream.  Trust me, it's a million times better than those terribly greasy yellow sponge cakes.  Grilled biscuits.  They're the way to go.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake Anyone?

The top of Mia's baby quilt is together, and I'm really pleased with it.  It is definitely reminiscent of the Strawberry Shortcake that I remember from childhood. I should be able to piece the back and quilt it tomorrow morning.  There may be some binding to hand stitch on the plane, but it *should* be ready by the time I get home on Tuesday.
In other news, I posted two copies of my Across the Universe bracelets yesterday morning, and they have both sold already!  Better go pack them up for their new homes.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Across the Universe - The Reveal!

My Across the Universe bracelets have finally been sent them off to their new home, and I can now reveal pictures!  

They are absolutely packed with Tibetan silver and pewter charms, and are finished with the cutest star shaped toggle clasps.
Each one boasts 19 different charms including:
Light Bulb from the Navigation room representing Eldest's lies to the people of Godspeed
Book from the Recorder Hall
Flowers that Elder picked for Amy 
Sneaker for Amy's love of running
Teddy Bear packed by Amy's father before launch
Centauri Earth, where Godspeed is headed
Koi, the fish painted by Harley

Block of Ice for Amy's parents, still cryogenically frozen
Sheaf of Wheat from the Feeder Level
Sun, which Amy misses trapped aboard the ship
Cross given to Amy by her grandmother
Star, which all the residents of Godspeed long to see
Caduceus for Doc
Sol Earth

Rabbit, genetically engineered on the Feeder Level
Palette for Harley
Cow from the Feeder Level
Infinity Symbol, for Amy & Elder's promise to stay together always
Drop of Water, manipulated by Elder and Doc

The beads are a mix of crystal, fire polished cut glass and AB glass in shades of purple, violet, indigo, sky, black and pink, as well as obsidian, rose quartz, hematite, and amethyst stone beads.  Some of my favorites are the foil backed rainbow glass beads that twinkle in shades of blue and purple when they move, the small glass stars, and the clear crackled glass with bits of bright blue inside that reminded me of the cryo-liquid in the book.
I'm so very proud of how these turned out, and it was such a pleasure to get to work with the author on a project like this.  (Somehow I don't think J.K. Rowling would answer my emails the way Beth does!)  If you enjoy mystery, suspense, sci fi, or YA fiction, I would seriously urge you to seek out a copy of this wonderful novel.  I hope you all enjoyed watching their creation from start to finish, and that it inspires you to go out to explore and create new worlds of your own!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

New Quilt in the Works

I know I promised to get back to quilting, and then proceeded to keep posting jewelry, but I really do have a quilt in the works.  A Strawberry Tea Party quilt for my new niece Mia. 
Block prints in pink and green.
Yesterday morning I fussy cut all the focal print blocks.  I think I'm now shy of what I needed for the focal print on the backing, but I've got good sized pieces of all the block prints left over, so I'm sure I'll be able to piece together something cute.
Teapots, Cupcakes and Birds on Teacups will be the centers of the focal blocks.
I also got the print blocks cut.  I know I'm supposed to mix them up more, but due to the fact that one of the prints is being used in two colors, and I seem to have picked a lot of dots, I think I'm going to have to go with only 4 distinct pairings.  So far, the only one I'm not sure about is the green and white Honey Vine print.  I'm afraid it's not going to read as green enough.
Ok, off to piece these blocks together.  I'm trying to get through at least one portion of the quilt each day, so hopefully I can take it with me when I go to visit my family in NH next week.  Cross your fingers for me!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Harry Potter Memorial Bracelet for Deathly Hallows Swap

I have been organizing the Decked Out for Deathly Hallows Part II swap over on Craftster.  My lovely partner amor_fati requested a piece of jewelry that would serve as a memorial to all the characters who died throughout the series.  I thought that if I was making a memorial to them, that I'd prefer it to be serious, but not sad, much like Rowling's books.  So I went with black, silver, white and clear glass beads, with tiny touches of red, yellow, blue and green Swarovski crystal for each of the Houses, since all of them lost members in the Battle of Hogwarts. 
I also tried to have the charms commemorate the best and happiest parts of each of the characters.  They include: a full moon for Lupin, wolf for Tonks' patronus, the Hallows symbol, owl for Hedwig, vial of Snape's memories, Hogwarts castle, wizard for Dumbledore (how Harry always saw him, venerable and old in magical robes), courageous token for the trio's journey, socks for Dobby, cemetery gates for  Godric's Hollow, glass eye for Mad Eye Moody, stag for James and a doe for Lilly, Claddagh (symbol of Love, Loyalty & Friendship) for favorite Hufflepuff Cederic, motorcycle for Sirius, and a mischief managed charm for Fred.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Across the Universe Update

I've finished all the Across the Universe bracelets!  Five identical bracelets are now gracing my craft table, and I'm thrilled with how they turned out.  I'll be sure to get good pictures tomorrow morning under natural light.

Creating Balance - Charm Layout Guide

I'm honestly not sure if people are interested in this aspect of designing charm bracelets, but it's one of the steps that I spend the most time on, so I thought I'd detail it here.  People often tell me that they feel like they cannot arrange items, whether they be charms on a bracelet, or decorative objects in their homes.  I distinctly remember arranging my toys as a child.  I often had just as much fun putting them in just the right place as I did in playing with them. (Yes, I admit I was an odd kid.)  When I got everything arranged "correctly", it was like I had figured out the solution to a puzzle I hadn't even realized I was trying to complete.  As I got older my mom would ask me to arrange pictures on the mantle, and was always far happier with my results than her own.  So I suppose I've always just had a knack for creating a layout.

Once I've gathered all the components for a bracelet, I usually spent an hour or more getting the layout of the charms just right before I actually start building.  Here's a step by step of that process.

I start out by dividing the charms up into groups or pairs that are similarly sizes and shaped.  If they are very odd sizes and shapes, then I try to pick out which items have a similar mass to them.  If I have an uneven number of charms (which is usually my preference) then I pick out one object to be the center of the bracelet.  In this instance I chose the sun to be in the middle.  This was for both aesthetic and catagorical reasons, as well as an intuitive need to support the story.  I liked the idea of the sun being the center of the bracelet, the same way it is the center of the solar system.  It is something that the character of Amy misses seeing in Across the Universe.  She's now found herself trapped on a space ship, with no chance of ever standing under the warming rays of the sun again.  I know in her place (despite my Irish propensity for sun burning) that is what I would be most aware of every day on the ship, that the light above was really just a lamp, and not the sun. 
For arguments sake, if I had paired the sun up with any of the other charms pictured, it would have been with the Earth and undefined planet in the bottom right corner.  All are round, and all are celestial bodies.  As such, I would have tried to divide the three up evenly.  In doing so, I would have placed the sun in the center, and the planets on each side of it, not only because planets revolve around the sun, but because out of those three, the sun is the object which is the most different in shape and texture from the other two.

From this point, I start trying to lay out the charms around the center object, attempting to balance both sides of the bracelet.  Not only in visual weight of the charms, but also in other ways, like the type of objects they represent (animals, planets, etc), and other qualities like their color and shine (some of these charms have a higher shine than others, which are antiqued.).  If I ended up with all the animals on one side and all the planets and stars on the other side, the entire bracelet would feel divided.  In this photo I have chosen the first category of charms that I wish to distribute, the largest charms.  The cross, sheaf of wheat, paint palette and running shoe are all bigger than the rest of the charms, so they should be kept apart from one another and spread evenly across the bracelet.  Notice that none of them are really the same shape.  The cross is spindly, the palette is flat and oval.  The shoe is narrow but thick, and the wheat is broad and flat.   
In this case the best balance for the cross is the palette, and for the wheat is the shoe.  The arms of the cross help fool the eye into equating it with the wider palette, and the wrapped bundle of wheat is closer in shape to the narrow shoe.

Now that I've got my larger objects out of the way, it's time to take care of the smallest ones.  In this case the light bulb and the crystal tear drop.  While the tear drop is bigger, it is also clear, unlike the bulb which is smaller but opaque.  This, coupled with the fact that both are tear drop shaped even though their tops are at opposite sides, makes them a great match.
I like to always use my two smallest charms at the ends of my bracelet for aesthetic reasons.  At the end of the bracelet, you have the clasp, which is much narrower than the width of the rest of the bracelet, full of bead pins and charms.  This visual change can be jarring, and make the clasp end look sparse or unfinished.  By placing the shortest charms (and later shortest bead pins) there, your eye is drawn along a more gradual slope. 
The other set of charms I chose to take next was the Earth and the unknown planet (Centauri-Earth in the novel).  I wanted visual distance between the two objects, not only because they look alike, but because of the very great distance between them in the book.  They are 300 years apart, and those who set fourth from one, will never live to see the other.  This gives us a journey to follow, and so it makes sense for that journey to be represented in the bracelet by their distance apart.

Now it's time to start adding in the more medium sized charms, remembering to balance them on both sides in size, shape, and type of object.  I've paired up the book and the cow because they are both basically rectangular in shape and relatively flat and broad.  They are also not very tall, but still taller than the small charms, making them a great transition from the small charms on the end to the bigger charms in the middle of the bracelet.  I've also added in the koi fish and the caduceus (medical symbol), which have a similar size to one another, and also a similar bumpy texture, and darker coloring. I am also attempting to keep the koi a little apart from the paint palette, as they both have something to do with the character of Harley.  Again, spreading things out helps create balance.
Now we are going to start having a trickier time balancing.  I've paired up the teddy bear and the rabbit, due to their size, and the fact that they are both decidedly fuzzy and gentle objects.   Next we have the glass cube bead.  This is an instance when a charm just could not be found for a theme or person I wanted included.  Its purpose is to represent Amy's parents who are still cryogenically frozen in blocks of ice in the bottom of the ship.  Amy is young enough to still want her parents to come rescue her, but old enough to know that isn't possible, and so she dwells on the ice in her longing for their comfort.  I made sure to use the ice bead on the opposite side from the water droplet, and balanced it with a rather shiny star.
This time I've added in the flower beside the book on the left and the infinity symbol beside the cow on the right.  Even though I had the flower and infinity symbol paired up originally, as I placed them I decided that the shine of the infinity symbol better matched the shine on the book, and the texture of the flower and cow were better balanced. 
At this point I try to go back and look at what has already been placed, and make sure I'm still happy with it.  Sometimes I'm not, and have to rearrange items that were originally anchor points in the design.  In this case, I just didn't feel like the 4 large charms were in the right order.

I've now rearranged the large charms.  The wheat stayed in place, but the cross, shoe and palette were all swapped about.  I cannot give you an absolute logical reason for this choice.  It is simply where the objects felt right.  Remember, the use of size, shape, color, texture and mass (the elements of design), are all a great guide to laying things out, but if it were as simple as following a formula, there would be no art to it.  By rearranging items until they feel right to you, you are putting something of yourself in the work and that will make all the difference.
Finished layout for the Across the Universe bracelet.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Questions About Creating Charm Bracelets

The first question I am usually asked when people see my charm bracelets is  "Where do you get the ideas for the bracelets?"  This is usually followed closely by, "How do you decide what charms to use?"  The answer to both of these is usually the text. Much of my jewelry is created in reference to works of fiction that have captured my interest and imagination.  Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Firefly and currently Across the Universe.  While I never took classes in jewelry making, I did earn both a BA and MFA in costume design.  My seven years of training in theatre always focused on how a costume designer can best serve the production.  Being able to design pretty dresses is all very well, but only if it is helping to serve the best interests of the story, and the story always starts somewhere.  In theatre we focus on any and all references within a script.  I approach designing jewelry the same way.  I start with the story, be it script or novel.  I read it purely for fun.  I let it soak in.  I let myself be in that world, and usually spend a few days after I've finished reading, longing to return.  Frequently I reread the book, because I'm just not ready to let it go.

At that point, I try to think about the moments in the text that stuck with me.  The characters I connected to.  The places I wanted to go with them.  The objects, symbols or themes that the author was trying to convey.  I start to list my ideas, letting myself go wild before I begin to edit down my choices.  By the time I've completed my list, I usually find I have more than one reference to some things, while I might not have a charm in mind to represent a theme or emotion.  I frequently chat with friends about stories that I love, and pick their brains for ideas.  I check out author's websites and wikipedia.  Mostly I try to immerse myself in that world.  I start to cross things off the list that do not help to tell the story so that my list of charms is a distillation of the very best parts of the book.
The final charm selections for Across the Universe
The other question I get is "Where do you get all your charms?"  The simple answer is, everywhere.  I spend a great deal of time on the internet searching for just the right charms.  Let's say I need a flower to represent an important moment.  There are thousands of choices in flower charms out on the web!  Whatever I choose has to balance with the other charms and it must be the right type of flower.  Was it daisies picked by a first love?  Or were they roses left on a friend's grave?  Is the bracelet shaping up to be bright and happy, or somber and serious?

I do have a few spots that I frequent on the web. has a good selection and fair prices, but rather slow shipping speeds. offers pewter charms made in the USA, and has a rather eclectic mix.  They also have an Etsy store where they offer some of the same charms, in bundles.  I also search numerous sellers on Ebay and Etsy.  Far too many to list here, but a wealth of choices to explore for yourself.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Across the Universe - Construction Begins

I finally received the last charms in the mail, and I'm spending all of today working on the Across the Universe bracelets.  Here's a quick peek at my work table right now...