Monday, 31 March 2014

First butterfly and a frowning Jinja

I haven't blogged much lately. Especially not the last weeks even though I've had tonnes of spring pics to post if I wanted. As I've been working today, there won't be a long post this day either, but I just wanted to say I'm still here, I'm dying to post flower photos as we've had some lovely spring days in Skåne this last weekend and one flower after the other is popping up. Even the wood anemones, I noticed today. And the other day, saturday to be precise, I spotted the first butterfly of the year. It refused to sit still so this was the best pic I got.

Bumble bees and butterflies (saw more yesterday so it wasn't just that one). And birds, of cause. While the flora is the first sign of spring, it's the fauna that really makes you believe it'll be summer this year too.

It is Meowy Monday after all, even if it's been long since I remembered that, so why not throw in a cat pic?

Jinja has a tendency to forget to put the tongue back in if she's distracted by something while licking herself. In this case a sound. And it makes for fun little photos. Unusually it was she that wanted to be my photo assistant while I was getting photos of the yellow star-of-bethlehem (vårlök) in the lawn. She was in the best of moods due to the sudden warm weather. In fact, all the cats suddenly went from semi-hibernating indoors most of the day to sun-bathing outdoors as long as the sun was up.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Knitting nancy WIP

I don't blog much right now due to work etc, but that doesn't mean I'm completely abandoning any creative pursuits. Here's one example of what I've been dabbling with the last weeks. After seeing many pretty hexafish rubber band bracelets, I of cause had to give it a try. Using my old knitting nancy (the old-fashioned kind made from a thread spool and some nails) rather than any new, plastic rainbow loom -- no need to spend money on stuff like that when you can make similar tool very easily using stuff from around the house.

Anyway, this is my try at a simple technique. I've also done a double foxtail chain using a crochet needle and, based solely on this pic (no, not the video, the piccy), a three-colour chain on my newest -- and messiest looking -- knitting nancy made from a small plastic wire spool.

It's a bit of a tight squeeze, a slightly larger hole would've been better as I worry that the rubber bands will wear against the wood. It's filed smooth, but still... As long as you're not using more rubber bands, making thicker weaves, it works. Just barely, but it works.

Here's a view from above. Should've taken a photo when working with three colours  (one row of each) as it makes a very pretty pattern while you're working.

We're All Ears march challenge

So... when I saw the pic Erin chose as the inspiration for this month's challenge, I felt like joining in even though I rarely make earrings. Very rarely. The deadline was yesterday and I had nothing to show. Why? "Det bidde en tummetott", as we say here (at least if you remember the old classics). Of grand ideas came a meager result. I wasn't happy with my embroidery designs, that's way. First time trying to make embroidered earrings and all and I'm simply more used to adapting stitches and motifs to bracelets, not tiny earrings.

But I didn't really give up. No, instead I decided to let the ideas mature a bit and instead make just a fun little design. Or "design", it's more of just putting a piece of tape on an earring. As you can see below.

But let me explain some more. That's a piece of printed textile tape that I pierced with a headpin on the middle and then folded together. After that it was just a matter of creating a wrapped loop and slide it onto the clip-on earrings. Unfortunately, I only had bright silver plated and gold plated ones and this earring dangle is crying out for something a tad more antiqued (tricky to oxidize plate).

Those rectangular tape pieces reminds me of the "wind catchers" on a fūrin. Guess they'll blow in the find just like them too considering how light they are.

As for making the loop you have two options: either make a small loop big enough to fit the ring, but not slide over the balled ends, or make a slightly larger loop that slides over the ball ends so you can make the earrings interchangeable. Personally I prefer the latter, though you have to be aware that it's easier to loose either the dangle or the ring when they aren't permanently attached to each other. (This is what happened with these earrings yesterday...)

That's the back of the earrings in case you wondered why I needed four photos of a simple pair of earrings.

So to conclude, not the earrings I wanted to show you today/yesterday, but still a fun little experiment I'm not too embarrassed to show people.

To see everybody else's challenge entries, please visit the Earrings Everyday reveal post!

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Green wire chains (Jewelry Making Mojo Challenge)

Having worked in the potato fields this week too, I started this week's assignment later than ideal, but I did spend time thinking about it during work. I knew right away, when reading that the assignment of the week was to make your own findings, that I wanted to make a chain. I also knew early on that I wanted it to have an organic feel with wrapped links. Perhaps adding a few beads or mixing metals. As you can see, I didn't get very far this time, though.

First I made the brass link.. It has a loop on one end to connect it to the next link with so that the rings lie flat. Unfortunately the wire was very hard and I couldn't, at the moment, anneal it so instead I abandoned the chain after just one link. (Though I realise that for the sake of the challenge I could've just made a bar and pretended it was a toggle clasp, but it was chains I wanted to make.) Rummaging through the wire box, I picked up a spool of fine gauge green wire which had been lying there for ages. Time to use some of it!

At first the idea was to make links similar to the brass link, but after wrapping the wire seven times around a marker pen and wrapping it, the link felt too big and flimsy. Maybe I should twist it in the middle? Did that. But instead of just keeping it like that, it made me think of foxtail chains so of cause I had to try making one of those out of the wire links. I kind of like the result, but the chain turned out very rigid, no flexibility at all.

Instead of tweaking it to make the fit better, it made me want to try another variation where I didn't wrap the links. While I liked it, it also made we want to try a variation with bigger links.

For the last variation, I didn't fold the links and just wrapped them together in one stop before adding the next link. Again, this produced a link that feels a bit flimsy, but with thicker wire (or perhaps mixing the fine gauge wire with a heavier one) I'd probably be ok. Maybe I'll wrap a flower bead or leaves around each link to keep the fine wires together and prevent them from snagging on something.

Sunday, 9 March 2014


It's spring and the crocus are in full bloom. I took photos of them both in the beginning of the week and today, but have been too busy to post any photos. There's also a few other flowers beginning to bud. The fritillary is not one of them. It's from the shop and sits in a pot indoors.

I've developed a penchant for this flower, Fritillaria meleagris aka snake's head aka kungsängslilja, recently. As you can see amongst my pins. There's one, two, three and even four photos pinned that I found just at the top of the boards. (And notice how in almost all of them, they're matched with another favourite of mine, the hellebore.)

We used to have these flowers by the wall of the smaller building where my sis and I live, but they disappeared years ago. At the time I didn't miss them that much as they weren't my favourites, but of cause it was sad to see them thinning out and then, one year, just be gone and never coming back. Then I forgot about them more or less. Until recently when seeing all those gorgoues photos of this both delicate and striking flower. Don't know if it was just its beauty or -- at least partially -- a touch of nostalgia that made me drool over the pics.

Now I adore it. Unusually, it's especially as a cut flower I love it. Combined with a few hellebores or on its own. Perhaps just a single flower with leaves in a clear vase. Normally I prefer living flowers with roots in soil, especially out in the garden or in nature. Flowers in a vase is just not really my thing. Sometimes it's nice, though, and sometimes it's a way to "save" a flower with broken stem for a while. Or you put them in water in order to let them develop roots so they can be planted. But just buying bouquets every now and then to decorate tables etc? No, that's not my cup of tea. I don't even find a dozen red roses romantic because of that.

Anyway, I mentioned that I wanted a snake's head fritillary as my sis and I went to a flower shop to pick up a couple of daffodils. Though they were a tad expensive, though, so I didn't buy, but apparently it'd rubbed off on my sis so she bought a pot. The one in the pic above.

The legend of the snake's head fritillary

Why not take the opportunity to tell of the legend of the snake's head? In swedish it's called kungsängslilja, named after Kungsängen (lit. the king meadow) outside Uppsala. The area is known for the fritillaries, which thrive here. It's the biggest wild fritillary population in the nordic countries. You can find both the usual checked variety seen in these photos, but also some of the white variety that is less common.

According to local lore, the fritillaries here are a memory of a battle between swedes and danes, back in the days a common thing as the wars between Sweden and Denmark were many. For every dane killed on the battlefield, a red flower grew and for every dead swede a white flower grew. As the swedes won a great victory with few casualties the white flowers are very scarce.

Star stitch bracelet (Jewelry Making Mojo Challenge)

The potato season began this week (meaning I'm pretty tired today after three days of work as the first days are the toughest what with getting up early and doing a lot of lifting and carrying). Knowing that it was coming up I knew it'd be impossible to tag along with e.g. the daily FusionBeads challenges, but I do want to have some creative challenges right now so I was hoping to be able to do the 12 weeks of Heather Powers' Jewelry Making Mojo Challenge. And today I planned to sit down with this week's challenge, Back to school. Not only planned, but managed to both start and learn a new technique -- even as both bed and books beckoned me and the other blog called for attention I made it my first priority today.

This week's challenge was, as the name Back to school implies, to sit down, find a project and make something inspired by it. Soon, I knew what I wanted to do. It was the perfect "excuse" or push to try a crochet stitch called star stich. I love those kind of decorative stitches or patterns, both crocheted and knitted. As I don't knit and don't really feel like learning it (no, I only learned how to crochet in school for some reason) the knitting stitches are more eye candy. Many crochet patterns are too, but this one was so interesting I wanted to give it a try even though it's many years since I did anything other than chain stitches.

Now, it should be noted that I haven't tried anything beyond chain stitches and slip stitches in over fifteen years. Nor have I even tried making a stitch like this. I used to stick to the basic stitches. A treble crochet stitch (US) or double treble crochet stitch (UK) was probably the most complicated one even tried. I also remembered that I used to have a very tight tension, something that would'nt work with this stitch. All in all, you can see why the result is far from brilliant. It's wonky and uneven, but I don't really care. Just need to practice more -- because I'm so going to learn more crochet stitches now.

As you can see in my pinboard, I've been looking at inspiring pieces, patterns and how-tos for star stitches lately, since before deciding to make it my challenge this week. (If you read my other blog, you just got the reason for why I posted this earlier in the week.) I used the video from Drops to learn the stitch by watching it several times and then printing the written instructions (available in several languages) to have by my side when picking up yarn and crochet needle. My projects to be inspired by was from B.Hooked and Made With Love, but as I wanted a light spring bracelet rather than a warm winter cuff, I decided to only make it two rows wide (= one row of "full stars").

First I did a test pieces in acrylic knitting yarn. Not the best yarn, but I wanted a full yarn, similar to the one used in the Drops video (also, it's one of few yarns I feel ok with "wasting"). Then it was time to choose a yarn for the bracelet. That turned out to be trickier as most of my yarns aren't designed for crocheting, seeing how I haven't really done it since I was a kid. Some novely yarns would also obscure the star pattern, making the stitch a bit unnecessary compared to a plain double crochet (US)/treble (UK).

After going through the stash, I settled for an expensive linen/viscose/cotton yarn in linen, green and purple.
It wasn't until after about four stars that I suddenly realised why it was the wrong yarn... The way the yarn was printed (yes, that's what the label says, not dyed but printed) and the way the stitch is made, the stars wouldn't be in one colour as they're completed first in the second row of crochet. A green star would be mostly green, but with the top in purple and taupe. It's not variegated as the yarn in the bracelet at the Made With Love blog, which makes a charming star stitch bracelet, it's a much bigger space between the different colours -- and it just doesn't work as well. Also, after making the whole length, I realised a star looks better in solid colour or just discreetly variegated colours, not in mottled colours as this yarn has in some sections.

But, then again, this was more of an exercise to boost my creativity and learn something new than about making a brilliant piece of jewellery so I'm not disheartened by the result. In fact, it just makes me want to make more of them! Better ones, both in yarn choice and in quality of technique. And it was sucessful enough for me to want to try other crochet stitches and patterns in the same style (especially puffy flowers/stars).

The bracelet doesn't have a clasp, i.e. button, yet. Not sure if I'm going to keep it, rip it up -- or perhaps make a second row of stars as I'm starting to think it might be a better choice (and it'd be interesting to see the difference). Right now it's just about a finger wide (doesn't have rule or tape measure here to measure it) so even twice as wide it wouldn't be too wide.

So all in all, while the result may be mediocre, it was a great and inspiring exercise that got me a bit hooked on crochet again!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Challenge of Music 2014

A belated welcome to my stop on the Challenge of Music blog hop! After what seemed like an eternity of knotting (126 knots to be precise), I finally have a challenge piece to show. It's green, but not so much in anticipation of spring. The colour is in many ways the central component of this story and challenge creation and it all begins in the year 2000.

My studentmössa, "student cap", from the graduation in June 2000.

The year 2000 started, in a way, rather anticlimactic for many after the much ado about nothing 1999 new year's eve. No world ending, no civilization crushing Y2K computer bug, no epic end-of-a-millenium party. But for me and everyone else my age in this country it was the beginning of a very important time. It was our last semester at gymnasiet, the three years following the mandatory nine years of schools, and it was time to choose our path in life. As the year transcended into the Year of the Dragon, many of us were really to send in our university applications. I was one of them, the first one (and so far the only one) in the family to aim for higher education.

This is the first meaning of the green colour as I, during the last year studying at the social science - business administration programme (samhälle ekonomisk), had gotten fed up with what I thought was my path in life, marketing. The more we studied, the less it felt creative and challenging and the more it felt like just learning about how to manipulate people. Business administration felt hollow, without real meaning and importance even though I still sort of loved the dynamic world of business. And having become more and more interested in environmental issues as well as human rights, contrasting marketing with the important issues in the world, money making felt soulless. The solution came one day when our class teacher handed us a list of business admin and economics programmes at the universities and högskolor in Sweden. After looking through the list, one line stood out. It said the Ecological Economics Programme. Not knowing much about all the existing disciplines, this felt like striking gold: I could combine my interest in economics/business admin with my passion for environmental issues! I knew straight away what I wanted to study after the summer. Now it was just a matter of finishing the last courses, get my grades and my student cap and then pursue my new passion in life.

In the summer I got the papers saying I got in and in late August I moved to a student flat in Västerås, a place I couldn't even pinpoint on a map of Sweden I'm embarrassed to say...

This is where the music part of this challenge comes in. Choosing a year was easy, the year 2000 was so extremely important in my life, but choosing a song wasn't much harder. We only had the basic channels on telly (plus the danish as we're on the verge of the area where you can get their broadcasts), but in my flat I got cable, which meant getting two (then) music channnels, MTV and ZTV. I still remember two songs from that year, one mainly from the telly (Overload with the Sugabages) and one from the telly and the clubs I visited with my new class mates that autumn. This is the second song I remember from that year:

The one thing I remember from the actual music video I saw on my telly was -- yes, you guessed it, the colour green.

But there's even more green associated with the year 2000 for me. Not just the green from the song I remember so well from the dance floors and videos on telly, not just the symbolic green of my choice of studies (apart from Ecological Economics, it included all sorts of green disciplines, from environmental sciences and green technology to eco sociology and environmental history). The one thing I remember best from my first -- and so far, only -- flat was not the inside, but what was outside. A country girl moving to the big city, I still felt close to nature: on the back of the student apartment building there was a lawn and a small exposed cliff with bushes and trees. You could at times see many rabbits and on occasions even a roe or two. At the centre of it all was a big linden tree. Every time I looked out my windows, I saw that beautiful tree, it filled up the window frame.

So that my challenge piece was to be green was the one thing I knew right from the start when signing up. Now it was "just" a matter of design and finding the right components. In the end, I settled for a simple (but somewhat time consuming design) that focused mainly on colour. The colour of the music video and the colour of my memories of the year of the dragon 2000.

In a way it's also a reference to home: the paired dagger beads reminds me of bamboo leaves, like from the bamboo bushes dad planted in the gardens. I spotted that while making the necklaces so it wasn't a symbol I intended originally.

As for more references to the music, it's a song that make you want to move -- dance or just jump up and down -- and I can just imagine the necklace and the beads bouncing and moving with the person wearing it.

The necklaces is made using medium braided silk thread and small dagger beads in a very simple pattern, knotting them two and two with spaces in between. Thought about varying it a bit, knotting some daggers in groups of three or one, but in the end I kept it like this --probably because of them reminding me of our beloved bamboo. At first it was intended as a lariat without clasp, but as it tangles easily I felt it was probably better to add a clasp -- none can be seen in the pics as I want a green one to match the beads -- wear it like a multi-strand rather than wrapping it around the neck.

It's very simple, but I like it. It'd be easy add a removable pendant or little beads on headpins if I ever felt like varying it a bit.

And that's it, my challenge creation and my story of an important year in my life. It's my life -- a fragment of it captured in glass beads and silk cord. For many more stories and creations, please visit our challenge creator and blog hop host Erin's challenge reveal post for her creations and for links to the rest of the participants. Enjoy!

Challenge earrings -- or, seeing an old bead in a new light

I'm still editing my reveal post for the Challenge of Music so I thought I'd take a break from that and show these earrings instead, which is sort of a fusion between yesterday's challenge in FusionBeads' 30 Day Challenge and this week's bead soup challenge in Heather Powers' Jewelry Making Mojo Challenge. It's not much of a bead soup, just four beads, but I'll try to explain why it still sort of is in my mind. But let's start from the beginning.

These four beads come from a bag of mixed leaf beads I've amassed over the years. It contains leftover beads as well as beads I just bought one or two of (often just to see the shape or colour IRL with no project in mind). As there's so few of them, I rarely find a project for them. Especially since I don't actually do earrings (as explain in an earlier post, I don't wear earrings and don't have pierced ears), but lately I was inspired by the blog Earrings Everyday to get my little stash of clip-ons and screwbacks out.

The focal point of this design is the milky red beads. Originally, I bought them for an autumn design with matching flower beads. They're autumnal maple leaves and I never saw them as anything but. Until... Thinking about the bead soup and earring challenges, I picked out the leaf bead bag and started to think. Turning the red leaves around, they do look like some sort of exotic flower or a floral motif from old indian, persian or other asian designs. Suddenly, I had budding flower beads instead of leaf beads in the bead soup ziplock bag!

After that it was only a matter of deciding on the design.

In the end, I when with my first choice as I liked the inverted drop shape.

And that's it, the first pair of earrings I've made in over a year.

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