Craft Studio: Adventures in resin

15 02 2021

I’ve been making resin jewelry for the past few weeks. I’ve been making earrings and bracelets here and there, learning the ropes on how to colorize and embellish with this medium. I especially love making these little resin “paintings” in bezels for necklaces. I’m using metallic pigment powders in most of these examples. I haven’t finished them off yet (will put some on cording, some on simple chains, and maybe incorporate them into some more complex beaded necklace projects as a focal point).





Craft Room: Alcohol Ink + Washers

16 03 2018

My sister Debbie and I recently tried our hands at making necklaces using cheap metal washers of various sizes, alcohol inks, and acrylic sealant, and finishing off with assorted beads and cords. Not too shabby for our first attempts!

Washer Necklaces





Re-post: Concrete leaf casting

7 08 2014

Originally posted July 2008.

This is my fourth most-visited post of all time with 21,984 visits on this blog and the second most-visited post on my gardening-only blog (www.gardenmuse.wordpress.com) with 47,834 visits. That’s a total of 69,818 visits for this one craft project!

My friend Debbi and I have been making these concrete leaf castings for several years now, and my Garden Club members have also tried their hand at it. We have used Portland cement type 1 for our earlier creations, but then started making them with Quikrete instead. Several artists recommend using vinyl patch instead because it’s stronger, lighter in weight and picks up more detail from the leaf texture and veining. It’s also more resistant to flaking and cracking associated with traditional cement mixtures. The next batch I make will be with the vinyl patch product!

This site here has step-by-step instructions (plus a youtube video). The steps are the same no matter which product you’re using.

Click here for Craig Cramer’s blog posting, “The Secret to Great Leaf Casts.” He recommends using Quikrete. Click here for another site with an extensive gallery for inspiration. David, the artist, recommends waiting 30 days before painting your creations. (I’ve never waited that long—don’t know if I would have the patience!) He mixes Quikrete with his concrete mixture, but I’m not sure what the ratio is. At the very least, his photo gallery will endlessly inspire you!

Since most of the leaves we create are smaller, we don’t often do the chicken wire reinforcement. Larger elephant ears do require a bit of reinforcement, though, and we have made some of those (the larger the leaf is, the more likely you’ll need two people to move it when it’s dry!). Most of the ones we have done are made with leaves from hostas, pokeweed, grape leaves, caladium leaves, and smaller elephant ears. Leaves that have nice, deep veins work best. If you want to hang your leaf on a fence or wall, insert a curved piece of clothes hanger or thick wire (formed into a loop) into the back before the leaf is cured.

Artists Little and Lewis  suggest using powdered pigments to color your concrete before creating the leaves. Read more about their approach with hosta leaves here. They have created some really beautiful (and large!) ones using Gunnera leaves, which grow well in the Pacific Northwest.

We haven’t tried the “color-in-the-concrete” approach yet. We do ours in the natural color and then paint after curing is done. Our favorite style is to paint the front and back with black acrylic paint, then rub on powdered metallic powdered pigments (the type often used in Sculpey jewelry projects). We used the Pearl Ex powdered pigment series, and we find silver, gold, bronze, blues, greens, and purples work much better than the pastel colors. We only apply the additional coloring and metallic powder to the front. The back remains black only. Check out Pearl Ex pigments on the Jacquard Products website.

I buy my Pearl Ex pigments from Michael’s or A.C. Moore. They sell them in sets of 12 different colors, or you can buy a larger bottle of one color. It doesn’t take much to cover the leaf. We use a soft cloth (and end up using our fingers) to rub in the pigments, which are very concentrated and go a long way. We find it best to paint the leaf with black acrylic craft paint in order for the metallic pigments to be intense in color when they are applied.

The metallic pigments are stunning and you can get a variegated look using various colors! If you try this style, you’ll need to seal the front of your leaf with an outdoor spray sealant to keep the pigment from rubbing off. I seal the front of the leaves with Krylon’s Make It Last!® Sealer, which has a satin finish and dries (for handling) within two hours.

Don’t expect the colors to hold up 100% in direct sunlight over a few years, though. The paint will chip a little but you can always paint over it and do it again to freshen it up. They still look good chipped and faded, though…sort of a shabby chic, relic-look! And you can try a new color scheme the next time around. Remember to seal after every repainting. Even if you hang or display yours indoors, you’ll still need to seal the pieces so they can be handled. And they certainly won’t fade as soon if they’re used as indoor art.

If you want a solid colored metallic leaf, you can use inexpensive acrylic craft paint instead of the powdered pigments. First, paint the front and back of the leaf solid black (the leaf is porous so it will soak in the black) and then paint the entire front with your colored metallic acrylic paint. After everything is thoroughly dry, seal the front of the leaf with the Krylon Sealer.

The good news: supplies for this project are CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP and the results are incredible! The downside? Those bags of Quickrete, etc. are HEAVY!

Whichever method you decide to try (Portland cement type 1, Quikrete, Quikrete + vinyl patch, vinyl patch only), I’d love to see your results and will share them on this blog!

Note to those of you who want to try it and live near me—if you buy the materials and lug them into your yard, I’m happy to come over and instruct! 

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Re-post: Just how many hats does one girl need?

27 09 2013

Originally posted December 6, 2011

One of the blogs I subscribe to is The Jackie Blog. This morning I received a post from her titled, “Enraged Knitting for Beginners,” which I thought was funny and it reminded me of my experience with trying to read crochet instructions. My friend Nanda tried to teach me knitting several years ago. I got the hang of it (if only briefly) and made what amounts to a not-so-absorbent coaster (I was aiming for a scarf, actually). Crocheting seems so much more productive and efficient to me. Knitting seems like 800 steps to gain a couple of inches. Maybe it’s just me.

Remind me to show you a photo of the technicolor eye sleep mask I crocheted for Michael on a flight back home from visiting my family a few years ago. Just 20 minutes after he said, “man, I wish I had one of those eye thingies so I could go to sleep,” I completed my version of a sleep mask for him. He did not hesitate to put it on and promptly drift off to sleep. This was particularly funny to me because it looked like a coat-of-many-colors-pre-teen training bra over his eyes. To create it, I crocheted two 3-inch circles and connected them in the middle with a one inch chain. I crocheted two long chains and attached them to the side of each disk so he could tie it around his head. (I had to tear the yarn to make each component since you can’t bring scissors on board.) I really didn’t think he would actually wear it, but he apparently has no shame. What a (sleepy) trouper he was (is)!

Below is a re-post of my crocheted hat obsession from September 2007. Now that winter isn’t far off and I’ll soon be tucking the garden in for the season, the yarn and crochet needle should be making an appearance soon.

Just how many hats does one girl need?

24 hats and counting, apparently—then add a few questionable scarves to the equation. Many years ago, in my formative teenage years, my mother taught me how to do a chain stitch, as well as single and double crochet stitches. That was the extent of my crochet education. (My younger sister, Kelley, never advanced beyond the chain stitch, but I must admit that she can make a really, really long chain stitch!) Sidebar: My Grandma Hester taught me how to use the same stitches to cover aluminum bottle caps. When we got a pile completed, she hooked them together and made dandy little trivets—now available for just 25 cents each at a yard sale near you.

So every few years, tempted by the yarn aisle at a craft store (honestly, what aisle does not tempt me?), I would buy a skein (or two or three) and attempt to make something wearable. I recall almost finishing a project (or two or three), but mostly I remember lots of half-finished unidentifiable yarn projects in a plastic bag in my closet. Fast forward to Christmas about four years ago—we were visiting my family in San Antonio, and on the drive up to see my younger sister in Dallas, I decided that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” and bought some yarn and crochet hooks. I have to do something when I’m in a car for six hours—if I’m not driving, that is. Picking up crocheting again seemed logical. I could arrive in Dallas and still be social, creative, and productive—with something tangible to show at my destination.

I decided I would attempt to make yet another (likely-never-to-be-finished) scarf. With my crochet skills a little rusty, the yarn began to curl and I couldn’t keep it straight. My mom (a.k.a. my crochet guru) said, “well, if it’s curling—make a hat!” Hmmmm…how does one make a hat? I started a chain stitch, then a single crochet, and let it weave into a circle until it began to resemble a yarmulke—since I’m not Jewish, I continued crocheting past that stage. I asked her, “How do you make it go down to form the sides of a hat—do you go tighter or looser?” Since she replied, “Yes” (a non-answer), I asked her if she had ever actually crocheted anything. That’s when I learned that although she knew chain, single, and double stitches, she had never made anything! All these years I had just assumed that the afghans, ponchos, pom-pon hats, placemats, and tissue holder covers on the couches, backs, heads, tables and toilets of friends and relatives across the country were all lovingly crafted by my mother (all of which are now available for just 25 cents each at a yard sale near you).

I just began to wing it, and I stopped at the precise moment it resembled a hat (see photo, second row, 2nd hat from left——this is my first hat). I did this without any instructions, unless you count my mother’s advice. Mom wasn’t much help past the yarmulke stage, and reading crochet pattern instructions would make my brain hurt.

Never seen a crochet pattern? Here’s just a sampling of the (it’s Greek to me) language of crochet: to shape crown: Ch 1. Rnd 1: Work 7 sc in first loop to form ring. Rnd 2: Work 2 sc in each st. 14 sts now in rnd. Rnd 3: Work [1 sc in next st, 2 sc in foll st] to end of rnd. 21 sts now in rnd. Rnd 4: Work [1 sc in next 6 sts, 2 sc in foll st] to end of rnd. 24 sts now in rnd, etc.

Now, I’m smart enough to know what the abbreviations mean, but if I have to keep reading something in order to make it (sort of like having to read an entire software manual—who really enjoys that?), it kind of zaps the joy out of creating for me.

So, I confess that I am crochet-pattern-challenged, and must do it by sight, trial, and error. If my goal is a hat, I crochet until it resembles a hat and then I stop—ditto with scarves. Something must be working with my rather crude system because here I am—24 hats and 7 scarves later. I can make a hat in about an hour and a half or less (pretty quick results to satisfy a creative streak). It started out with simple hats made from one kind of yarn and has evolved (as you can see in the photo) into fuzzy trim and crochet flowers. I cannot make a simple hat—it has to be embellished now. You’ll notice several of the hats are plain—this was practice until I had the shape down pat. Then I got brazen and started adding fuzzy borders, balls, bric-a-brac, and brims.

I crochet on road trips and instead of telling someone how many miles it is from here to there, I tell them, “That’s about a 3-hat trip for me!” Making hats (too many) is something to do during winter when I can’t putter around in the garden. Some I make as gifts, but most I hoard for myself.

And for an amusing take by another blogger on what not to crochet, go to the site below. Also look at “Top Posts” on the right and see some other funny crocheted items; the “Thongs” posting is funny, particularly the responses from readers.

http://whatnottocrochet.wordpress.com/2006/05/28/tissue-box-covers/

http://whatnottocrochet.wordpress.com/2006/12/10/thongs/

.24-hatsscarf2.jpg





Leaf casting workshop in the works!

21 08 2013

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE BELOW?

My friend, Rob Bergsohn, and I are planning a fee-based workshop on making these leaf castings in September.

Rob runs the Northern Virginia Portrait Photographers group on http://www.meetup.com. He hosts portrait photography workshops outdoors and in the studio as well as 2-4 hour Lightroom and Photoshop classes from his home studio in Falls Church, Virginia. Rob saw my botanical photography exhibit at Green Spring Gardens in spring 2012 and asked if I would host some workshops with him.

We’re planning the workshop for sometime in September and the dates will be slated for weekend days to allow more participants to join. There will be two dates involved—one date to make the leaves (I’m guessing that session will be about 2-3 hours long) and another date for participants to return (after their leaves have cured) to paint and finish their creations.

If you’re in the D.C./Virginia/Maryland area and think you might be interested in signing up, please e-mail me at dyerdesign@aol.com to get on our email list. When we finalize the dates cost and details, we’ll send out a notice to you. We’ll include a link so you can pay via PayPal on Rob’s Meetup group site.

FYI—if you’re interested in learning Lightroom, check out Rob’s workshops. I took his basic Lightroom class a few weeks ago and learned a lot—for just $25 for a couple of hours of instruction. It’s an excellent value! He offers other studio classes on lighting and composition, so check out his meetup group page here: http://www.meetup.com/NOVAPhotography/  It’s a great bunch of photography-minded people and Rob is always adding new classes on a variety of topics relating to photography. You’ll need to sign up for a FREE meetup.com account before enrolling.

___________________________________________

 

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Craft Room: Bronze & turquoise wire crochet necklace

26 07 2013

Bronze wire crochet necklace with beads in bronze, copper, ceramic, wood, glass, resin and plastic

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Copper & Turquoise Necklace





Fit to Be Tied (and Dyed): Easy, fast, inexpensive scarves from t-shirts

18 07 2013

Check out our fun craft project series in the summer 2013 issue of Celebrate Home Magazine! Download the issue free in the links below!

View the issue as reader spreads (my favorite!):

CHM Summer 2013 Spreads

View the issue as single pages (suitable for printing):

CHM Summer 2013 Single Pages

Splurge and purchase a beautiful print copy on magcloud.com (no markup; at cost + shipping):

http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/600404

Help us spread the word! Share Celebrate Home Magazine with your family and friends.

Photography and design by Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

BLOG Tied Dyed





Craft Studio: Bedazzled beaded bracelet in blue

28 10 2012

Last weekend during my beading birthday bash I created this cuff bracelet for my friend Dawn. I used a blank wire cuff, 24 gauge non-tarnish silver wire, and an assortment of beads in various shades of blue. The star of the show was a piece of inexpensive square glass—the kind you get in bulk bags to fill vases. You can buy the bracelet blanks at Michael’s in a two-pack for $2.99 (you’ll get one of these and another style that I haven’t found a use for yet). I just discovered they’re available in a blackened-silver and a bronze color, too. It’s an extremely easy project and takes an hour or less to complete!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Craft Room: Ear bling

3 07 2012

My sister heads back to San Antonio this afternoon, but we have had a blast being on the road in Rhode Island and Vermont, then back home crafting earrings, necklaces, bracelets, napkin rings and t-shirt scarves!





Tiny bling

16 06 2012

These are some of the images I’ve chosen to create pendant necklaces (1″ silverplated, copper or brass bezels with acrylic or glass domes and dogtag, silver snake chains or cotton and satin cords). I’m going to launch a shop on etsy soon (Garden Muse Studio) to sell prints (loose, matted, framed), photo notecards (regular botanical photos and my older line of Polaroid transfer reproductions) and crafts such as jewelry, linoleum cut prints (my next endeavor) and small acrylic paintings (landscapes, botanicals and mixed media). There’s nothing in the store yet, but I’m working on it! The two kitten faces are for my friend Karen and her daughters, FYI.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Craft Room: Necklace for Paula

31 03 2012

Last night I showed my friend Paula how to make the crochet wire + bead necklaces that I’ve been creating since last spring. She came up with the idea of crocheting just the center part of the necklace and attaching a chain instead of chain-stitching the rest of the piece. I thought it was a great idea—it would be easier to control the length and the necklace would be less resistant to metal fatigue in the crochet-only areas (plus—less beads, less wire and less time!). I made the simple matching earrings for her. This piece contains beads made of glass, hematite, cracked glass, glass pearls and metal. Paula has lots of experience in wire-wrapping, bead stringing and other jewelry skills so I learn far more from her than she learns from me.

© Cindy Dyer (with assistance from Paula)





Craft Studio: Bedazzled beaded bracelet

13 02 2012

This past summer I created this cuff bracelet using a blank wire cuff, heavy gauge non-tarnish silver wire, and an assortment of beads in various shades of green. The “star” of the show was a piece of inexpensive square glass—the kind you get in bulk bags to fill vases. I tried to find a resource for the blank cuff but couldn’t—but I do know my friend Dawn (who was the recipient of this piece) bought it at either Michael’s or Wal-Mart.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

 





Craft Studio: Earrings for Debbie

23 01 2012

I made these for my sister, Debbie, a few days ago. I hold her, as well as her friend Diana (who invited us over to her home to learn how to do crochet wire and bead necklaces last March) responsible for this beading kick I’ve been off and on since then (as if I really needed another hobby?). For these pieces, the bead types include resin, lampwork, Czech glass, porcelain, pewter, glass pearls, polished stone, hematite, abalone shell and wood.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





“Caged” gems

17 01 2012

My friend Paula and I learned how to make these whimsical earrings in a workshop last spring with the Gem Cutters Guild of Baltimore. We spent the day at the workshop in Baltimore while Michael and our friend Karen went museum-hopping and had lunch. It also happened to be Karen’s birthday that day, so we were to meet up with them (as well as Paula’s husband, Ken) later for dinner at The Cheesecake Factory in the Inner Harbor.

Our instructor had us work with sterling silver wire (an extra $25 materials fee due to this!). In the class we also learned how to make earring wires, headpins (see the coiled headpin in the earrings below? I hammered the coil flat on an anvil to create this look), necklace and bracelet clasps, and a coiled wire ring. The earring wires shown here were commercially made and provided for the project. This is the only pair I’ve made so far, but with the instructor’s detailed printouts, I think I can tackle it again. It was amazing to see how some simple coiling techniques could make such a cool pair of earrings!

I found this youtube video here that shows how to make the caged beads like we did.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Saturday night beading marathon

9 01 2012

My sister Debbie hosted an all-night beading party this weekend. All but one beader stayed past midnight to help usher in Debbie’s birthday on Sunday morning. We started at 5:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon and disbanded after 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning! I made all of these earrings, plus a few more pairs as well as started a crochet silk thread and bead necklace (still unfinished because I got distracted by making all these earrings!).

You must forgive the rudimentary lighting on these pieces—they were lit with what I had available: a torchiere lamp, the dining table overhead lamp and a small flashlight. I also only brought over my little Nikon Coolpix L110 and set it on macro mode (with very good results). Debbie’s friend, Karen, served as my trusty photo assistant and was the lucky recipient of all the pieces below except the square green earrings. I made them specifically for her partly because she said she didn’t think she would look good with “dangly” earrings (she does) and partly because she re-sorted an entire box of my beads that I turned over onto the tile floor (no, not intentionally), scattering tiny baubles to the four corners of the room. How could I not reward her after that fiasco? After she said that she thought dangling earrings made her look like a “lady of the evening,” I asked her if dangling earrings were the only thing that she thought would separate her from being either a working mom or a working girl. I looked under the table to see her wearing low-heel preppy moccasins, and told her she didn’t have appropriate shoes for the latter profession, so it was safe for her to wear the earrings. We got several miles of laughs out of the dangling earrings–working girl scenario.

We didn’t have the lighting down pat for the top two earrings (shadows are way too prominent), but figured it out after that. Fun was had by all but I must confess that I barely made a dent in my bead stash. Beaders Anonymous, anyone?

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





2011: A Visual Recap

28 12 2011

I’ve picked one photo from each month of 2011 as a way to recap the year. Now here’s to 2012—hoping it is a year of immense creativity, preparing for my first solo photography show in umpteen years, partnering with two friends in publishing ventures, staying connected to family, nurturing friendships both near and far and old and new, growing my graphic design and photography business in fresh and challenging directions, hosting soirees, communing with nature, updating my garden with quirky and photogenic new plants, hitting the road in search of adventure (and fresh photographs), getting back to my painting (fine art, not walls), shooting more photos (and not just botanical), honing my writing craft, acquiring new skills and learning something new every day.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Craft Room: Blue baubles for Bobbie

26 12 2011

Non-tarnish crocheted wire and bead necklace and earrings made with Czech glass, glass pearls, dyed stone, shell, lampwork beads, crystals, resin and metal beads © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Curse words from the craft room

20 12 2011

Last night I crafted these for my friend Judy to give as gifts to relatives this Christmas. She picked out the styles and together we figured out how to do them without instructions (eek!). I know how to make some projects, but this was my first attempt at making “cluster” beaded earrings. I just know you’ll love the first pair and if even one of you ask me to make a pair for you, I will gather my beads and head for the hills. Before I run, I will unfriend you on Facebook, screen your phone calls and block you from e-mail. You know I will.

In that first pair of earrings, each of those little beads has to be mounted on a headpin and a loop created to attach to a very, very tiny chain. When you attach them, they will fall off at least three times per bead. You will drop them on the floor, not find any of them (and pray that your cat doesn’t hoover them up), then have to start over with a new headpin, bead and loop. And when that happens often enough, you will utter words that will make a sailor blush. The process will take up more than two hours of your life. Just one pair of earrings. Two hours. (I tried to entice her with simple designs by promising to make her 20 pairs of them—she wouldn’t bite. And really, I could probably make 50 pairs of simple earrings in two hours!)

When you finish making this pair for your friend, and she says “Only two pairs to go,” you will tell her, with nary a blink from your weary eyes, that she will pick another style or suffer the consequences. And so she does, and in the process, you learn how to do two other styles that are not quite as torturous to your eyes, hands or psyche. Then you will fall asleep at 1:00 a.m. and pray that those teenagers appreciate that more than five hours went into creating these beauties, and that their aunt did not buy them at Claire’s Boutique in the mall. Even though you picked out the most complicated designs ever, I still love you, Judy.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Re-post: Just how many hats does one girl need?

6 12 2011

One of the blogs I subscribe to is The Jackie Blog. This morning I received a post from her titled, “Enraged Knitting for Beginners,” which I thought was funny and it reminded me of my experience with trying to read crochet instructions. My friend Nanda tried to teach me knitting a few years ago. I got the hang of it (if only briefly) and made what amounts to a not-so-absorbent coaster (I was aiming for a scarf, actually). Crocheting seems so much more productive and efficient to me. Knitting seems like 800 steps to gain a couple of inches. Maybe it’s just me.

Remind me to show you a photo of the technicolor eye sleep mask I crocheted for Michael on a flight back home from visiting my family a few years ago. Just 20 minutes after he said, “man, I wish I had one of those eye thingies so I could go to sleep,” I completed my version of a sleep mask for him. He did not hesitate to put it on and promptly drift off to sleep. This was particularly funny to me because it looked like a coat-of-many-colors-pre-teen training bra over his eyes. To create it, I crocheted two 3-inch circles and connected them in the middle with a one inch chain. I crocheted two long chains and attached them to the side of each disk so he could tie it around his head. (I had to tear the yarn to make each component since you can’t bring scissors on board.) I really didn’t think he would actually wear it, but he apparently has no shame. What a (sleepy) trouper he was (is)!

Below is a re-post of my crocheted hat obsession from September 2007. Now that winter has arrived and the garden is tucked in for the season, the yarn and crochet needle should be making an appearance soon.

Just how many hats does one girl need?

24 hats and counting, apparently—then add a few questionable scarves to the equation. Many years ago, in my formative teenage years, my mother taught me how to do a chain stitch, as well as single and double crochet stitches. That was the extent of my crochet education. (My younger sister, Kelley, never advanced beyond the chain stitch, but I must admit that she can make a really, really long chain stitch!) Sidebar: My Grandma Hester taught me how to use the same stitches to cover aluminum bottle caps. When we got a pile completed, she hooked them together and made dandy little trivets—now available for just 25 cents each at a yard sale near you.

So every few years, tempted by the yarn aisle at a craft store (honestly, what aisle does not tempt me?), I would buy a skein (or two or three) and attempt to make something wearable. I recall almost finishing a project (or two or three), but mostly I remember lots of half-finished unidentifiable yarn projects in a plastic bag in my closet. Fast forward to Christmas about four years ago—we were visiting my family in San Antonio, and on the drive up to see my younger sister in Dallas, I decided that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” and bought some yarn and needles. I have to do something when I’m in a car for six hours—if I’m not driving, that is. Picking up crocheting again seemed logical. I could arrive in Dallas and still be social, creative, and productive—with something tangible to show at my destination.

I decided I would attempt to make yet another (likely-never-to-be-finished) scarf. With my crochet skills a little rusty, the yarn began to curl and I couldn’t keep it straight. My mom (a.k.a. my crochet guru) said, “well, if it’s curling—make a hat!” Hmmmm…how does one make a hat? I started a chain stitch, then a single crochet, and let it weave into a circle until it began to resemble a yarmulke—since I’m not Jewish, I continued crocheting past that stage. I asked her, “How do you make it go down to form the sides of a hat—do you go tighter or looser?” Since she replied, “Yes” (a non-answer), I asked her if she had ever actually crocheted anything. That’s when I learned that although she knew chain, single, and double stitches, she had never made anything! All these years I had just assumed that the afghans, ponchos, pom-pon hats, placemats, and tissue holder covers on the couches, backs, heads, tables and toilets of friends and relatives across the country were all lovingly crafted by my mother (all of which are now available for just 25 cents each at a yard sale near you).

I just began to wing it, and I stopped at the precise moment it resembled a hat (see photo, second row, 2nd hat from left——this is my first hat). I did this without any instructions, unless you count my mother’s advice. Mom wasn’t much help past the yarmulke stage, and reading crochet pattern instructions would make my brain hurt.

Never seen a crochet pattern? Here’s just a sampling of the (it’s Greek to me) language of crochet: to shape crown: Ch 1. Rnd 1: Work 7 sc in first loop to form ring. Rnd 2: Work 2 sc in each st. 14 sts now in rnd. Rnd 3: Work [1 sc in next st, 2 sc in foll st] to end of rnd. 21 sts now in rnd. Rnd 4: Work [1 sc in next 6 sts, 2 sc in foll st] to end of rnd. 24 sts now in rnd, etc.

Now, I’m smart enough to know what the abbreviations mean, but if I have to keep reading something in order to make it (sort of like having to read an entire software manual—who really enjoys that?), it kind of zaps the joy out of creating for me.

So, I confess that I am crochet-pattern-challenged, and must do it by sight, trial, and error. If my goal is a hat, I crochet until it resembles a hat and then I stop—ditto with scarves. Something must be working with my rather crude system because here I am—24 hats and 7 scarves later. I can make a hat in about an hour and a half (pretty quick results to satisfy a creative streak). It started out with simple hats made from one kind of yarn and has evolved (as you can see in the photo) into fuzzy trim and appliqued flowers. I cannot make a simple hat—it has to be embellished now. You’ll notice several of the hats are plain—this was practice until I had the shape down pat. Then I got brazen and started adding fuzzy borders, balls, bric-a-brac, and brims.

I crochet on road trips and instead of telling someone how many miles it is from here to there, I tell them, “That’s about a 3-hat trip for me!” Making hats (too many) is something to do during winter when I can’t putter around in the garden. Some I make as gifts, but most I hoard for myself.

And for an amusing take by another blogger on what not to crochet, go to the site below. Also look at “Top Posts” on the right and see some other funny crocheted items; the “Thongs” posting is funny, particularly the responses from readers.

http://whatnottocrochet.wordpress.com/2006/05/28/tissue-box-covers/

http://whatnottocrochet.wordpress.com/2006/12/10/thongs/

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Necklace for Macie

28 07 2011

I crocheted this little wire necklace for my niece, Macie. Made of non-tarnish silver wire (26 gauge), it consists of two rows of crochet stitches with a separate wire-crafted bird nest containing three blue freshwater pearl “eggs.” I normally make the bird nests with 24 gauge wire, but this is what I had available when I was crafting with my sister in San Antonio a few weeks ago. It required more “revolutions” of the wire than 24 gauge would have to achieve the thickness of the nest, but the end result looks very similar. I’m working on a larger version for an adult to wear. Learn how to make the bird nest on Cathe Holden’s crafty site here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Craft Room: Necklaces for Karen & Sue

1 06 2011

I created the tribal-inspired necklace for Karen over the Memorial Day weekend. I used non-tarnish silver-plated silver wire with Czech glass beads and ceramic/pewter/resin/rubber beads for this necklace. She chose some of the beads and the color palette. The black and white version is for Sue and has glass pearls, Czech glass, and Hematite/ceramic/shell/pewter/resin beads.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

 





Craft Room: More wire & bead necklaces

6 05 2011

Must. put. down. the. crochet. hook. now.

Four more bead and wire creations to share…fortunately, they don’t take long to make (1-1/2 to 2 hours, tops) and they make great gifts. I made the blue one and the pink ones as gifts for my mother-in-law, Sybil. The red and orange tribal concoction is for my friend Gina and the green one was a present for my friend Karen (this past Saturday was her birthday). I really enjoy making them, though, because I love playing with color and texture when planning each piece, plus I’m refining the process as I go along. My friend Paula and I took a day-long workshop at the Gem Cutters Guild of Baltimore last weekend and we learned how to make findings, clasps and a host of other silver wire projects (we made a ring, earrings and a bracelet). I’ll share those projects in a later posting.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Craft Room: Crochet wire necklaces

20 04 2011

My family and friends (and perhaps some of you, my treasured readers) have noticed that when I learn a new skill, I go a wee bit crazy implementing it, expanding upon it and trying to perfect it. In a previous posting here, I showcased the first necklaces my sister Debbie and I made last month after taking a class in San Antonio. I have since made four more wire creations. Never content with just the basics, I’ve begun embellishing them with charms, such as in the four strand “Sea Goddess” (#1) and the triple strand “Falling Leaves” (#2). “Bluer than Blue” (#3) is a two strand version. The last triple strand version in this group (“Tropical Punch”) is a gift for my friend Gina’s mother. I think my next one will be garden-themed with floral embellishments and garden tool charms.

Taking orders soon! (Seriously. How else can I pay for these hobbies?)  😉

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Craft project #956: Crocheted wire & bead necklaces

6 04 2011

Last Friday my sister Debbie and I took a jewelry-making class utilizing wire, beads and simple crochet chain stitching. I had seen these types of necklaces before but couldn’t figure out exactly how they were made. They are not quite as complicated to make as I had assumed they would be. I made five this past weekend and can now make them in two hours or less (that is, when someone isn’t talking and interrupting my bead and stitch counting)! Debbie made the top two necklaces (as well as the bracelet) and I made the bottom three. Her daughter (and my lovely niece) Lauren graciously modeled them for us (of course, the first four items were made especially for her, so she had an incentive to do so). Thanks to our great instructor, Leticia, for her expertise and to Diana, who hosted our little creative get-together. Yes, thanks. I really needed another hobby. Seriously. Etsy, here we come!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





In the words of Seinfeld’s George Costanza: “Yes. Significant shrinkage!”

9 03 2011

In early January I suggested to my friend Karen that we take a try-it class at a local clay studio. She agreed and two days later we found ourselves straddling potter’s wheels and giving it a whirl (literally) for just $35 each (including clay, two hours of instruction, firing and glazing). I had attempted the wheel way back in college. I was surprisingly bad at it and very disappointed because I tend to pick up most creative skills very quickly. Throwing pots on a wheel did not come easily to me back then.

Fast forward to January 2011: Jessica, our instructor, showed us how to center ourselves over the wheel and use proper techniques. It made all the difference.

I was quite proud of my first attempt. I surreptitiously added a “foot” to my bowl and silently declared that it could easily be included in any Pottery Barn catalog once it was fired and glazed. Karen’s bowl was lovely too even if she didn’t add a foot. Ah, grasshopper, have patience—you’ll get there.

When we said goodbye to our perfectly-formed creations, they were the size of cereal bowls. Jessica would later fire and glaze them in the studio’s signature blue color. She told us that we could pick them up in about a month.

Six weeks later, I go to pick up our projects. I searched high and low on the shelves for my Pottery Barn-worthy cereal bowl with its lovely perfect foot. Since I didn’t immediately spot my creation, I turned over the pots to see if our names were scribbled into them, courtesy of Jessica. They were. I found my cereal bowl. It had shrunk considerably. I’m fairly certain that Jessica, who was a wonderful instructor, most likely mentioned that the pots would shrink, but I was way too enthralled with clay play to process that very fact. In my head I was dreaming of throwing a plethora of pots, fulfilling orders for organic, artistic inventory for Pottery Barn, even hiring studio assistants to defray the overwhelming workload—making money hand over…wheel!

I suppose I could still use it as a cereal bowl but I’d have to go back three times to get a breakfast’s worth of goods. I included the soup spoon for scale. Yes, it may be tiny, but isn’t it the loveliest shade of blue?

Behold—my first true creation on the potter’s wheel—a $35 hearing aid caddy!

Operators are standing by to take your order. Please add $40.00 for labor, shipping and handling. Please allow two months for delivery. Not available in stores. Call in the next five minutes and we’ll throw in the soup spoon, ab-so-lute-ly free!





Sewing with Jasper

18 07 2010

(Sounds like a reality show, doesn’t it?—like Project Runway, but with felines). I’ve been in a sewing mood since the 4th of July weekend at the lake and to date I have made three tablecloths, 33 table napkins and six table runners. Do I need more table linens? Of course not! Every time I start sewing, Jasper insists on joining me and nestling into whatever fabric is available. Hope you like cats because that’s all I’ve photographed this week. It’s been too hot to do anything outdoors! This evening, my friend Karen joined me at the sewing table. She was making the second of two pillow shams for her bedroom (and we were so brave—flying without a pattern—whoo hoo! Wild women!). In the second photo, Jasper is serving as her topstitching quality control inspector. While Karen sewed the sham, I pulled out the Sculpey clay supplies and made some large leaf-shaped buttons for the pillow closures. Now I just have to bake them in my clay-dedicated toaster oven, paint, and seal. If they turn out halfway decent, I’ll photograph them and show you the finished effect.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Craft project: Bird nest necklace

6 04 2010

I made these bird nest pendants for the gals in my wedding. They were made just like the cooper wire ones I made for Michael and his groomsmen here. My friend Kathy models one I made for her in the photo at right.

Silver wire and dyed freshwater pearls were woven to form a bird’s nest. Special thanks to blogger Cathe Holden for posting her great tutorial on how to make these sweet little bird nests.

Once I make the loops to hang them on chains, I’ll be distributing them to all the gals in the wedding party—Karen B, Debbie, Kelley, Lauren, Deanna, Nancy, Carmen, Norma, Karen W and Macie. Unfortunately, I didn’t have them finished to give to them out that weekend. Hence our wedding theme—“better late than never!”

You can see the latest photos I’ve posted from the wedding on our wedding blog here. Many more photos to come!





Craft Project: Boutonniere

25 12 2009

Michael models the boutonniere I made for him to wear at our wedding in October. The groomsmen wore them as well.

Craft notes:
Seafoam blue velvet ribbon hot glued onto brown grosgrain ribbon (all from Michael’s)

Velvet craft leaves applied at top of ribbons (from a great embellishments online store):

http://www.vintagevogue.com/onlinestore/item6846.htm

Copper wire and dyed freshwater pearls woven to form a bird’s nest and hot-glued on top of leaves—special thanks to blogger Cathe Holden for posting her great tutorial on how to make these sweet little bird nests:

http://justsomethingimade.blogspot.com/2009/03/little-wire-bird-nests.html

Fiddlehead fern-shaped swirl created out of thin gauge copper wire and tiny seafoam blue seed beeds, then hot-glued into place around the bird nest.

I made bird nests out of silver wire with seafoam blue pearls for the ladies in the wedding party. I didn’t have the loops made for the chains in time to distribute at the wedding. Check out more photos on our wedding blog. Many more photos to come!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.







Sponge painting should be illegal.

7 08 2009

There. I said it (okay, typed it). I know I will offend some DIY’s out there who beg to differ. With the myriad painting treatments you can do to a wall, why on earth would you ever sponge paint one again? Ugh. There’s a reason that treatment didn’t stay around long. It’s U-G-L-Y. And no, it doesn’t matter if a master painter does it, either. Karen rented her lake house out last year and the tenants got creative in two of the bedrooms—the results were rather disastrous. This Exorcist-pea-soup green sponged room was actually the more tame of the two, if you can imagine that. I’ll share the worst room in a future post! I want to reiterate—while this is Karen’s lake house, she is not responsible for the “before” room treatments. She has much better taste, trust me.

If you ever hear a friend mention the word “sponge painting” when referencing what she envisions for a room in her home—remember—friends don’t let friends sponge paint! Color wash, yes. Stucco texture, if style appropriate and well done, have at it. Glazing, sure. Anything but sponge painting. I’ve never seen it done well. Ever. No need to send me photos or links or any other proof that it can be done well. I am my father’s daughter and I am stubborn. I cannot be swayed, at least not on this subject!

Karen and I painted the walls a seafoam blue and Joe painted the ceiling a bright white. Karen and I made padded headboards with MDF board, cotton batting, and upholstery fabric—very simple: we had Home Depot cut the sheet in half so we wouldn’t have to do any cutting at the lake. We wrapped the front with batting, then used a staple gun to tack on the fabric. It doesn’t get any easier than that! I bought the funky abstract rose-patterned fabric years ago and never had an occasion to use it until now.

I whitewashed the nightstand to give it a more rustic, shabby chic look. Karen already had the curtains. We raided our respective closets for some excess linens and bought the rest to tie the whole thing together. I’m envisioning a handmade something-or-another spanning the large wall behind the beds—perhaps a school of whimsical fish cut from wood or metal (Hey—Michael has a plasma cutter somewhere!)—something light and airy and floaty, perhaps?

This is the room Karen and Joe let me sleep one night this past February. It was the first time I stayed with them at the lake. This room was still sponged painted, unfortunately. Fortunately, you don’t notice it in the dark! They wanted me experience a sunrise on the lake. It was so beautiful! I photographed  and blogged about that first sunrise in a posting titled, “Room with a view.” I’ve been down there many times since and I always lay claim to this room—sure hope they don’t mind!

The room isn’t completely done yet, but it’s on its way!

More of our lake house makeovers to come…

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Lakehouse seafoam room





Craft project: The Monet Chair

20 07 2009

My friend Karen inherited this rocking chair from her grandmother and took it out to the lake house a few weekends ago. She has often declared, “I’ve never met a little chair I didn’t like!” Since the fabric wasn’t in great shape, she asked what I thought about painting something on the chair to make it more whimsical. And, of course, I took on the challenge with gusto!

NOTE: The chair is not finished yet—the photo on the right is a Photoshop collage utilizing the chair in its current state with an overlay of a screen grab image of one of Monet’s water lily paintings. I combined the two images to use as a painting reference. This is what it should look like when I’m done!

Over the July 4th weekend, I painted a base coat of metallic blue, green and gold paint (finally, a use for all those little bottles of fabric paint I bought when such-and-such store was going out of business!). My initial plan was to paint sketchy leaves or swirly abstract shapes on top in a lighter color. I thought that it was starting to look like the water in one of Monet’s paintings of water lilies at his garden in Giverny, France. I shot some record shots of the chair after I was done. Karen loved the idea of turning it into a “Monet chair,” and it was her idea to split up the painting with the Japanese bridge on back of the chair and the water lilies on the seat. We found one of Monet’s many water lily paintings on the web, including one with very bright blue/teal and green combination of tones in the water. I did a screen grab of the painting and superimposed it over the chair in Photoshop to see what it would look like. She loved the effect—so guess what my project at the lake house this next weekend is? I’ll shoot some during-and-after shots so you can see how it turned out. I’m estimating it will take about 3-4 hours to complete.

Monet Chair