Thursday, January 22, 2009


Let's face it. At this point, I have a lot of Valentines Days under my belt. I've been trying to think whether I had a favorite one or not, and really not coming up with much.

My first Valentines Day with DH does stand out--I'd managed to live through one marriage and years beyond, without ever having anyone give me chocolates for the occasion. For whatever reason, that was the one thing I craved--a heart-shaped box of candy. When it finally happened, I felt simply suffused with a sort of quiet joy, and I still have the box, all these years later, and the velvet ribbon rose that held the lid in place, too.

But I really think my favorite Valentines Day was one I shared with my children.

When I was a little girl, Valentines Day at school was always a big thing. We decorated the boxes our Valentines from the other children would go in, red and white, paper lace, people made out of hearts--oh, the bliss and the excitement. Every child would get a Valentine from every other child in the class. No stressing out about whether you'd be popular and get a lot, or suffer the embarrassment of having fewer than the other kids. It was that way when my girls were little, too. I wonder if the etiquette remains. I do hope so.

The downside to all that romantic excess was that afterwards you had this pile of Valentines! Heartless (so to speak) to simply throw them away, but what to do with them?

One year, the (I think) perfect answer came to me: Placemats!

I put the materials out on the dining table, doing the necessary prep before I called the girls in. Here's what we needed:

Self-adhesive vinyl (aka Contac paper)
Valentines and other pretty pictures

The first thing I did was cut sheets of plain paper the size of place mats, to use as a template. Or maybe I used actual place mats; it was a long time ago!

I gave each of us a place mat template, and each girl her stack of Valentines. My youngest wasn't in school yet, so her sisters gave her their extras and duplicates. A decorated napkin filled the last empty space for her.

Then we lay the Valentines out, trying to fill the whole rectangle while creating an attractive arrangement. I remember it required a lot of rearranging, but we had fun, and thinking about that afternoon has put a smile on my face.

When the girls had figured out their layouts, I helped them with the next step:

Cut a sheet of the self-adhesive vinyl about 2" (5cm) bigger than the place mat. You want a border that will seal itself all the way around.

Lay the piece of vinyl on the table, sticky side up. This piece is the back of your place mat, so it doesn't have to be the clear kind, but if you do use clear, you'll be able to see the signatures, if they're on the backs of the cards.

Carefully place the Valentines on the vinyl, smoothing them down, in the arrangement you created on your template. If you have cards that overlap, it's helpful to glue the overlapped edges before you do this, but not strictly necessary.

Now comes the tricky part: When you've got all the cards stuck down, cut another piece of self-stick vinyl, and, being careful not to let it wrinkle, smooth it over the whole thing. Trim the edges, leaving about 1/4" (6.35mm) all around, to seal it.

And one last one I made for my (now) ex-husband:


Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Yesterday felt like a day to make a bracelet, so I did. Then I made earrings to match, and then more.

In the past, finding a way to incorporate shank buttons in jewelry has kind of stymied and frustrated me, because there are so many really beautiful buttons just crying to be used. I begin to think I've found the answer.

So, if you want to try this, you might start here:

A Small Shank Button Tutorial

because that's actually where I started. The bracelet simply enlarges on it. So, pictures first, and then a bit of explanation on the difference between using the buttons for a bracelet and using them for earrings.

This is the finished bracelet:

And this is what I used:

  • 5 vintage shank buttons, about 5/8" (1.59cm)
  • 5 charcoal mother-of-pearl flat circle beads, about 1" (2.54cm) in diameter
  • 12 oblong vintage black plastic "jet" beads, about 1/2" (1.27cm) long
  • 12 head pins, 2 1/2" (6.35cm) to 3" (7.62cm) long
  • 36 black seed beads
  • 2 round vintage plastic "jet" beads
  • 4 small silver bead caps
  • 1 clasp
  • Non-tarnishing silver wire, 20 gauge
Here's a photo of the back of the bracelet:

As you can see, I didn't fill the gap between the shank of the button and the ring bead, which added one more possibility for movement to the piece. It also wasn't necessary to bring the wire to the back of the bead to prevent the beads' spinning to show the wrong, or back, side--your wrist will do that.

So the process would be to make a wrapped loop on one end of a piece of wire about 2 1/2" (6.35 cm) long, string on one side only of the circle bead, then the shank button, and then run the wire through the other hole in the bead, ending in another wrapped loop. After the first bead group, of course, you'll want to join the wire-wrapped loops as you go, to create a chain of wire, buttons, and beads.

When you've joined the five buttons, measure the bracelet to your wrist, to see if you need another button-bead link. My wrist measures about 6 3/4" (17.1 cm), so five was about right. More length will be added by the clasp assembly, in this case a silver capped bead wire-wrapped to each part of the clasp and the bracelet ends.

After you've created the basic bracelet, string the head pins:
  • 4 head pins strung with one oblong bead and three seed beads
  • 4 head pins strung with one oblong bead and two seed beads
  • 4 head pins strung with one oblong bead and one seed bead
Attach one of each group to the loops joining the bracelet links, using a wire-wrap or simple loop. (I prefer to wire-wrap, as it's sturdier, and looks nice, myself.)

Note: While my seed beads were all technically the same size, I did pick through and put a slightly smaller bead on the top of each stack.

To make the matching earrings, I followed the process given in the A Small Shank Button Tutorial.

With these earrings, I did fill the space between the button shank and the inside edge of the circle beads, as I wanted the button to be centered on the ring. The beads you'll need for that will depend on the dimension of the button shank.

As you can see from the photo, I also brought the wire used for the stringing and upper loop to the back, to provide that spin-stopping function.

Finish the earrings with a dangle made from one oblong bead and a seed bead, and add the earring wires.

Just for fun, here are three more pairs, made using the same basic technique:

Notice that in the last pair, I brought the spin-stopping wire to the front, for some extra design oomph.

Well. That was fun for me. Hope it gives you some fun, too!


Friday, January 16, 2009


It's been a long time coming, this Friday Fence Post. The weather has been colder than a fishwife's glare, and they do not call me "Temperature Wuss" for nothing, so I haven't gone out any more than was absolutely necessary, and certainly not to take pictures.

But. We went to our son and daughter-in-law's today, and thinking of adorable grandchildren on top of the drive through all that ruralness, I put the camera in the front seat. It was, like I said, cold. There was frost everywhere, even at 10am, but as I drove up the hill, following a white sun, there was this fence...oooh...

I was able to resist the impulse to park the car and grab my camera for the span of probably an entire ten feet.

Barbed wire never looked so beautiful...

and the moss atop the weathered black fence post was a world unto itself...

I wonder, as I finish this, whether my youngest will recognize her home, at the end of that fence?

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Once I made the first pair of shank button earrings, all I wanted to do was make more. So I did.

This little tutorial builds on yesterday's, so if there's something you don't understand, you might want to look at it. The thing I think about when I'm working with shank buttons is the space between the shank and the edges of the button. With a bead, whatever you're stringing with--wire, thread, etc.--won't show, but with a button there's that span to cover.

I use extra beads to do that. Sometimes they don't show at all. Other times, they become part of the design. In yesterday's pair, the beads were very much part of the design; with this one, not so much so, although there's just a tiny bit of color showing above and below, almost like a seed bead.

So again, you start with a wrapped loop at the bottom, then string on a bead, in this case a blue bugle, then the button, and then another bugle bead. There should be just a little of the beads showing from the front.

At the top of the bugle bead, begin a wrapped loop, but instead of clipping the wire, bring it down the back of the button, and around the shank, and then back up to the top of the bugle bead. Are you following me so far? Here's a picture, and below it I'll continue with the rest:

Loop it around where you've begun the wrap, and then bring it back down to the back, ending with a tiny coil. The wire will cross the front of the bugle bead on the diagonal.

There's a reason for all that looping around in back: It keeps the button from spinning on the wire, so that the pretty side of the button will face forward all the time when you wear your earrings. You could accomplish the same thing with a dot of glue, probably, but I like the simplicity of this, and the interesting appearance it gives the back. That's probably not very important--I mean, who looks at the backs of their jewelry? But I like it anyway.

Here's another shot of the back from a different angle:

And the finished pair:


Monday, January 12, 2009


Do you ever get the urge to just make something? Maybe you don't have a lot of time, but there's that need. It was that sort of a day for me. When time is limited, earrings can feed the creative hunger I feel, and anyway, the beads and buttons were already out, because I'd finished a bracelet just before going to bed last night. Since I'd been working with green, I just dug around in the green button baggie until I found a pair of buttons I liked.

Then I turned my fifteen minute project into two that took considerably longer by deciding to do this tutorial. Well, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

You'll need the usual array of beading tools--round-nose pliers, flat-nose pliers, and wire nips. And also

Fine gauge wire (I used 24 gauge)
2 matching shank buttons
4 matching flat, square beads (other shapes would also work--they just need to be flat)
2 seed beads

I'm going to assume basic wirewrapping technique, just enough to make a wrapped loop, to keep this brief, and also because I know others have already put tutorials for that up, and mine wouldn't be as good.

So start by cutting a length of the wire roughly a foot long. You want to give yourself enough to work with. Make a wrapped loop on one end, and the thread on a flat bead, a button, and another flat bead:
I noticed when I was working with my beads that the hole ran at a bit of a slant. If yours are similarly drilled, put the off-center hole against the shank of the button. Also, check to see whether one side of each bead is prettier or more evenly colored, and be sure to put the nicest side facing out.

This is where it gets just a bit more complicated. At the top of beads you've just strung, make another wrapped loop, but instead of cutting the wire, bring it down the front of the top flat bead, and under the button.

Now wind the wire once around the shank of the button, pulling it tight. Bring the wire down the lower bead, crossing it diagonally, and loop it around the wire-wrapping at the bottom, then back up the front of the bead, and under the button. Pull the wire in against the button shank, cross the upper bead on the diagonal, and wind it around the top loop a time or two, and clip.

That's a lot of words for something that really happens almost intuitively, so study the picture below and go with your instincts.

The last step is to wire wrap a seed bead, and hang it from the bottom loop.

I think they turned out rather well.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


I am bewitched by the unusual jewelry of Tuyen Huynh, who sells on Etsy as CreationTwinne. I stumbled across her shop quite by accident, and quickly bookmarked it as prime drool material! Maybe for my birthday...?

An exploration of her shop led me to her profile, which is quoted below, for the sheer delight of it:

"My name is Tuyen Huynh. I am a Vietnamese cultured fashion designer graduated at C├ęgep Marie-Victorin in 2004 in Monreal, Quebec.
I am passionate of arts.

An excess of folly, a wave of creativity and 3 cups of patience is enought to drive me into crazy originals jewelry piece of art."

And now, without further ado, some of what excesses of folly, waves of creativity, and cups of patience will get you. Or at least, what they get Tuyen, because this level of creativity simply amazes me:

The last photo includes Tuyen's other website, still mostly "under construction", and also an attribution for her photographer, Elise Racine.

Friday, January 2, 2009


Daughter Melody wanted to make this Christmas' giving more "interesting". She suggested we choose a theme, and build our gifts around it, and supplied us with some possibilities, including gifts of a certain color, or having to do with a book, while not necessarily being a book.

Her sisters and I kind of cheated. We bought our gifts, and then thought of a book that could be the basis for it. For example, my son-in-law has been wanting to get into canning, as he's quite the gardener. I got him a waterbath canner and set a mug with fishing lures printed on it in the bottom (he's also a fisher), and said the book was "The Old Pan and The Sea". (All right, all right. I know it's lame!)

It became clear that we didn't "get" what Melody had been talking about when we opened our gifts from her.

Our first gift was a book:

We were instructed to read it aloud. After a couple of pages, we found a sticky note. It said to open Gift #2.

We had reached the page that said a moose with a muffin was likely to want homemade jam to got with it. The second gift was a recipe for Lemon Raspberry Spread, and the ingredients to make it.

A few pages later, another sticky note, saying to open Gift #3, on a page saying a trip to the store was going to be necessary, for which the moose would require a sweater. A black sweater was the third gift.

Gift #4 went with a page saying the moose would ask for socks:

The book finally comes full circle. The moose needs a muffin!

I absolutely loved our gifts!

And the idea, too. So next year, we're going to go with the book theme again. That is, Melody's sisters and I will. Melody says she'll do the demonstration for 2010's theme: a gift based on a Wiki-How. That's good, because I have no more idea how that would work than how the book theme did!


Related Posts with Thumbnails