Studio Musings

Monday, December 26, 2016

Boxing Day Lantern Ornaments with a Beaded Tassel

It's become something of a tradition to post a little something special for Boxing Day on my blog.  Last year it was a paper box pattern, the year before a limited-time free download of my Beaded Acorn earrings tutorial.  This year, I decided to combine two of my current favorite crafts:  paper crafting and beadwork into a little Lantern ornament.  Depending upon the colors you use, I've found this pattern works pretty much year round.  In this sample, I've optimized for the winter holidays. 

What you'll need: 
  • Index paper or cardstock (8 1/2 x 11")
  • utility knife, steel ruler & cutting mat OR paper cutting machine.
  • Bone folder & ruler
  • 2 skeins embroidery floss
  • Playing card
  • Assorted beads
  • Beading thread and needle
  • PVA glue

The Basic Lantern Pattern
Download and Cut out Design:  Save the image of the basic lantern pattern above and print it out so that each box equals one inch (1") square.  Refer to the rulers on the left and top edges of the image.  Use this as a guide for cutting out your paper pattern with an utility knife and steel edged razor. 

Or, if you have a paper cutting machine, you can download a copy of my design, which fits two lanterns on a single sheet of cardstock.  I designed the pattern in Cricut's DesignSpace.  And because I hate wasting paper, I filled the rest of the sheet with some little gift cards and tags. 

Lantern's cut out - time to fold
Score and Fold:  Once the pattern is cut out, it's time to fold the lantern along the scoring lines.  Refer back to the pattern above - the dotted lines indicate folds.  I find it's easiest to do this with a bone folder and a clear, quilting-grid-style ruler. 
  • Work from the inside/back of the paper.  
  • Score each fold-line first by lining up your ruler, then running the tip of the bone folder down the line along the edge of your ruler.
  • Then, without moving your ruler, slip the bone folder underneath the flap and use it to help fold the paper up along the edge of the ruler.  I couldn't get a good picture of this because it required more hands than I had available.
  • Remember to score and fold the little overlap flap at the left edge of the design, too.  Use the pattern photo above as reference.

Create the Tassel
Now, it's time to make the tassel.  A while back, I wrote a detailed blog post on how I make my little tassels, so I won't repeat the entire process here. 

A quick review from my 2011 post

This time around, I ended up using a couple of playing cards stacked together for stability, because I liked their size.   I wound the embroidery floss around the cards width-wise, using about 1 1/2 half skeins.  Once I had the thickness I wanted, I tied off the centers on both sides of the card, and cut the ends from the edges of the card using the utility knife (Exacto blade).

going for the look of candle flames

This method makes two tassels.  I decorated the tassels with a little beadwork, including some peyote stitch around the neck, and then a beaded 'chain'.  Adjust the length of the chain so the tassel hangs where you want it. 

testing the length & fit

Putting it all together:  Finish the chain with a larger bead that will hanging inside the lantern, and a larger bead above the lantern, then a little loop of beads.  You need a large bead inside, and a large bead outside to act as 'stop' beads so the tassel stays where you want it. Test the fit with the lantern to make sure this works.  Adjust your beading if necessary. 

Now it's time to glue it all together.

Gluing the bottom - fold in the back first
Gluing the Bottom.  Start by folding in the bottom flap of the back (solid) side.  Apply glue to the outer (under) side; then fold in the two side panels and make sure they adhere well to the back flap.  Apply more glue to the bottom of the side panels. 

Before you fold in the bottom front panel, make sure that you apply glue to the outer edge of the little side flap.  Take a look at the next photo below.

Glueing it all together
Adhere the side flap to the inside of the front panel, and fold the front bottom into place to complete the little lantern.  It can take some massaging to get the glue to adhere the little flap firmly to the front panel.  Take time to line up the edges for the cleanest finish. 

The finished ornament

Final Notes:  I used solid-colored paper for my lanterns, and decorated the outer side with designs 'drawn' with a metallic gold pen.  But you can change the look simply by changing the color palette or using patterned papers. 

Next I want to make one using dark blue paper and silver ink, then make an 'icy' tassel to go inside the lantern.   Then I'd have Fire and Ice! 

So there's my quick little "Lantern" ornament idea. 

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas

It's 4:30pm on Christmas Eve.  My husband and I have both finally finished running around like crazy people and are settled in for the holiday.  The Christmas tree lights shine bright, a 'fire' crackles on the tv (closest we want to get to a live fire without a fireplace), Christmas carols fill the room.  I'm curled up on the couch alternating typing on my laptop and playing with my snowflake pattern while day-dreaming about snow.  At this precise moment, life is very very good.

Here's wishing you a the happiest Hanukkah and a very Merry Christmas.  May the holiday bring you peace, joy and love, however you choose to spend it!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Adapting Traditions to Christmas Present

As a child, December was filled with holiday baking.  Come December 1st, we began baking cookies.  Mom directed the baking, but my siblings and I all played our part; mixing dough, 'spritzing' cookies onto the baking sheets from the cookie press, adding sprinkles (lots and lots of sprinkles), rolling and cutting out.  We made spritz and pfeffernusse, chocolate chip and oatmeal, macaroons and almond spice cookies, and more.  

My memory says we baked almost every evening leading up to Christmas - dozens and dozens of cookies, amid lots of laughter, great smells, snitched cookies and family camaraderie.  In those moments, everything seemed just as it ought.  And then, right before Christmas, we'd package up plate after plate of cookies and take them to our teachers and all of our neighbors.  That became another event; parading up and down our street delivering Christmas goodies. 

As a newly married adult, I tried to continue the tradition.  I baked loads of cookies and delivered them to friends and neighbors.  That continued for several years, but each year it got a little harder, until finally it became a sort of hit-or-miss thing, whether I'd make cookies that year.  It simply wasn't as fun, making the cookies by myself.  Too much alone time.  Through all these years, I continued to collect cookie cutters.  I've come to realize that they were tangible reminders of some of my very best childhood memories.   And so the cookie cutters piled up - each one a little promise of magical fun, just waiting for their chance.

And then a couple of years ago, I hit upon the perfect solution:  The Cookie Decorating Party!  Instead of the loneliness of solitary baking.  I invite my friends to come and share the adventure.  When they're done, they have a plate (or 2 or 3) of decorated cookies to take home with them.  At this point, it's become our own annual tradition. 

The week before the party is spent making sure the house is fully decorated, and the day before I make up lots and LOTS of sugar cookie and gingerbread cookie dough, then stick it in the freezer wrapped in waxed paper.  The day of, we put all of the extensions in our dining room table, and set up an extra card table in the living room by the Christmas tree, swathing both tables in vinyl table cloths.  Then pull out my entire collection.

We encourage everyone to bring a rolling pin and baking sheets, but we have everything else.  And for the day, my house is filled with laughter and cheer, amazing creativity and camraderie.  This year, many wonderful cookies were made, including if I remember correctly, a 'Sharkaroo' (what happens when you combine a shark and kangaroo cutout), several pairs of Christmas pliers (our youngest guest at 9 years old thought the pliers where 'the best'), and a tray of water molecules in the shape of mickey heads, along with the rest of the more 'traditional' Christmas gingerbread men and sundry.

On party day, I normally don't do any cookie making myself.  I'm far too busy visiting and making sure everyone else has what they need.  It's such fun to watch, I just want to drink it all in!  But afterwards, I continue baking and decorating, using the 'leftover' dough.  And it's fun, because I can relive memories from the party, steal some of my friends best ideas (yes, that whale cookie cutter makes a fine llama if you turn it on it's side), and it feels like Christmas. 

I never seem to remember to pull out my camera while the party's in full swing.  But here are a few pics I caught towards the end.

The aftermath of lots of cookie decorating fun

I swear I offered her a chair.  Such detailed designs!

A friends cookies - notice the plaid!  Drawn with food-safe markers
Carrie, my Ornament Swap partner from last year, sent me these as a surprise

My 'Aloha' cookies - playing with the cutters
Turns out the palm tree is one of those designs that just doesn't work as a cookie - every single trunk fell off it's palms.  So I turned the palms into a "wave".  I'm definitely better with beads - my decorating skills are best described as 'enthusiastic'.  But it's such fun (rather on par with finger painting)  :)

Decorating my 'after party' cookies
This year I bought really soft squirt bottles for the frosting, and that worked quite well.  Except I need to make the frosting a little thicker next time.  Some of the colors, the black in particular, were a bit too runny. 

It's funny.  Everyone kept thanking me for holding the party, but I really felt like I should keep thanking them.  Because they came and joined in on the spirit of fun.  And they make one of my favorite holiday traditions come back to life in an entirely new and wonderful way. 

So Merry Christmas everyone! 

I hope that your days are filled with traditions new, old or adapted, that bring you joy and laughter this holiday season. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Happy Fish and Freeform Rings - Winter Classes at Fusion Beads

Signups are now open for Winter classes at Fusion Beads. I'm excited to teach two workshops.

Freeform Peyote Rings
Saturday, January 28th
Interested in trying your hand at freeform peyote? These quick little rings are a great foray into freeform beading, using peyote stitch in creative ways to create fanciful organic designs incorporating crystals, spiked, or other novelty beads.  Each ring is a unique creation- no two designs turn out exactly the same! 

Happy Fish Bead Embroidery
Sunday, March 26th
Add a touch of whimsy to your day with these playful bead embroidery Happy Fish.  Enjoy a play day with a more freeform approach to bead emboidery while creating a fun fish brooch, pendant, hair ornament or applique.  Work with a variety of bead embroidery stitched to create your own unique design.    

One of the things I love best about both of these classes is that everyone's work will be entirely their own.  I think of these a supported creativity classes.  I'll be sharing techniques, tips, and lots and lots of design ideas, but there's so much room for the creative play and exploration.

Mine are only two of nearly seventy classes and workshops in Fusion Bead's new schedule.  As always, they have an amazing schedule of classes in bead weaving, metal work, kumihimo, resin work and more.  You can check out their full schedule here

Monday, December 12, 2016

Blow-Out Kit Sale - Three for Two Sale

Update:  I'm not going to have time to remove my beading kits from my Etsy store over the weekend, so I've decided to extend the kits sale through Sunday.  Last shipping day is still Monday, December 19th.

This is the last week that I'll be offering my beading kits for sale.  Then they'll be gone for good.  Next week, I'll be scavenging kits for beads and component parts.  But I'd rather the kits go to good homes instead.  So, now through Friday, I'm offering a Buy Two, Get a Third for Free special in my Etsy Store.

Etsy doesn't allow me to set this up with their coupon codes, so I've had to come up with two different work arounds that you can use for this.  Especially since I have very limited quantities left for many of the kits.

Option 1) Go onto my shop and purchase any three kits.  I will then refund you the cost of the third kit within 24 hours.  This has the advantage that it keeps the best track of available inventory, so that you know your third kit is definitely still available.  But has the disadvantage that you have to pay for all three up front and wait for the refund.  Not ideal, I know.

Option 2) Purchase two kits of your choice.  Then let me know what you'd like as your free kit in the notes to seller.  If it's still available, I'll take it out of my Etsy inventory and include it in your order.  It would probably be a good idea if you give me your top two choices for your free kit, as quantities of each type are quite limited. Otherwise I'll have to email or convo you to figure out what your next choice is. 

I wish there was an easier way to do this!  But I can't think of one.  If you have any questions, let me know.

This special is only for my kits (including kits in my Holiday Collection), and doesn't apply to my beading tutorials or books, which I will continue to carry in my Etsy store. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Advent Calendars, a Favorite Holiday Tradition

my hand-painted advent calendar
December 1st marks the start of my Christmas season.  Time to pull out the Advent Calendar.  When we were children, Mom would buy the cardboard calendars with little doors, some had candy, the one I remember most simply had the Christmas story told over 24 days.  As a childless adult, I'd abandoned the tradition until I happened upon the tree-shaped calendar with little boxes I wrote about back in 2013.  I love trying to find fun, new ways to fill each day; ways to awaken my holiday spirit.

The boxes are small, a little over an inch square, so it's kind of tricky finding things that will fit.  I had a great time searching Pinterest for ideas. Some of my favorites:
 *  Krista's Christmas Countdown Activities
 *  Coffee Cups & Crayon's Random Acts of Kindness calendar. 
 *  Idealist Mom - lots of ideas for fun little activities and do it yourself advent calendars. 
All of these blogs have free printables, (and several have links to their Etsy stores).  But one of my favorite pins - a nicely written compilation of the nativity story - didn't link to a current site. So I decided to make my own version - a set of little "books", and while I was at it, I decided to make a separate set for Clement Clarke Moore's, The Night Before Christmas

And in the spirit of Christmas, I thought I would share.

I saved the designs in three separate PDF files:

If you'd like the original Illustrator files so you can do your own editing, let me know and I'll send you a link.

I then trimmed the pages into separate strips

Trimming the pages into separate strips

Then folded the strips into thirds, making sure my first fold fell between the two text blocks, and my second between the text block and the little number (the numbers help me keep the finished books in their proper sequence).

Folding the strip into thirds
Check to make sure all three sections are the same width.  I'd forgotten to trim the left-most edge for several of strips.  So I had to do that next.  The simplest way to mark where to trim is to fold the two ends in towards the center and mark the overhanging edge.

Marking the left edge so I can trim it away.
Next I accordion-folded the left and center sections.

accordion folding the first two sections
I finished the book by wrapping the 'cover' backwards around the book, then gluing it in place.

Wrap the cover around the other 'pages' and glue in place
And that's all there is too it!   You can use this folding technique for all sorts of little projects.  The great part is you only need to print on one side of the page to create a little book and cover.

Finished 'books'.  I used a gold marker to cover any white showing on the covers

I also put together a couple of pages for my Cricut Cutter. 

Want to play with this design?  Here's the link

Here's a link for a full page of ornament-style tags. 

I try to fit as much onto each page as possible.  The chinese-lantern shaped ornaments should be free, whether or not you have a Cricut Access subscription.  The rest might cost something to cut if you don't already have a subscription.  (I renewed my subscription for the holidays, and will cancel in January, because it's really nice to be able to use the stock designs for faster holiday crafting.  I designed the page layouts for 8 1/2 x 11" cardstock (I used white index paper from Office Depot). 

Notice the text in the first file?  It's really fun watching the machine write.  In this case, I used Faber-Castell Pitt Fine Art pens in black and sepia.  They fit perfectly in the machine. 

Cricut 'drawing' Christmas designs on paper
Once I removed the cut designs from the mat, I decorated them with glitter paper, cut snowflakes, and twine.

Decorated ornament tags
And finally it was time to stuff the calendar boxes.  I start with any date-specific activities (picking out our Christmas tree, cookie decorating party, etc.) and then fill boxes from there.  Almost every box had at least two little things in it. 

Last night we opened the first box - it had the start of the Nativity story, and a question ornament "What is your favorite Holiday tradition?".  That started a fun conversation about Christmases past.

And I'll finish this post with two questions.   Do you do any crazy holiday crafting - what sort?  What's your favorite holiday tradition?

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Full to Bursting

Thanksgiving Pies - Almost as good as Beading!
Full to bursting - that seems to be the theme, heading out of Thanksgiving weekend.  Tables loaded with food, homes filled with family and friends, tummy's full of turkey and all the fixings.

And now my Etsy store; overflowing with beading goodness.  More beading goodness than ever before (and possibly ever again), topping out at a grand total of fifty one separate listings.

My focus is in a state of transition. I think I know where I'm going - into larger scale, freeform beaded sculptures.  There are also a couple of book projects I'm mulling over.  In order to clear space (both mentally and physically) for my new work, I've decided to divest myself all of my beading kits, including several that I've made specifically for in-person workshops in the past.  It's time to find new homes my beading kits. Once these are gone, I'm not planning to make more.   Time for a change!

If you've ever wanted one of my kits, this is a great chance, although quantities are extremely limited.  I have one or two kits left in many color ways and designs. Here's a few highlights of what's available:

Catch of the Day Pendant in fiery 'fiesta' colors
Catch of the Day Pendant and Necklace.  This design started with a right angle weave bezel around a flat, oval stone.  You can guess what happened next; I had to see if I could turn it into a fish.  And this pendant/necklace was born.  I particularly love the fact that since the fish lays flat, you have two different 'faces', and they don't have to be the same.  It's a two-for-one design!  I also love the 'fishing floats' made from felted beads with beaded bead caps.  I have kits in bright fiesta colors, in blues & greens, and as a stand-alone pattern.  (If I can find the felted beads which seem to have gone walk-about, I may have a couple kits in the black & silver colors, too)

Fancy Fish:  I have kits in three color schemes, and have also listed some turquoise-blue dyed magnesite and red-dyed magnesite core beads.

Snowflake Chains: I just finished updating this tutorial, and am now offering it as a stand-alone pattern.

I've also updated Snowflake & Stars; cleaning things up, and adding some additional inspiration/gallery photos.  If you've already purchased the pattern, email me and I'll send you the update. 

The Snowflake Collection includes both of my Snowflake patterns at a reduced price.

If you already own my Snowflakes and Stars tutorial and would like the Snowflake Chain Ornament, I'm happy to set up a special, half-price listing especially for you.  You'll also find the last of my Snowflake Kits in Cobalt & Gold, and Peppermint Twist.

Interested in Right Angle Weave beaded beads? 

I've updated my Criss-Cross Lantern Beads tutorial, and am offering it as a digital download.  Or you can pick up a free copy of my Lantern Bead tutorial with purchases of my second paperback, Corsets, Caps and Stays: Elegant Beaded Beads with Right Angle Weave.

I've also listed a number of kits featuring my original Corset Beads right angle weave beaded beads.  You'll find singles in several colors and a couple of sets, including my favorite Yule Tidings Collection, which has everything you need to create six holiday beaded beads, and quickly turn them into ornaments or pendants. 

Prefer my Personal Planets freeform peyote beaded beads?  I have kits in my Quinacridone Summer and Sea Breeze colors.  In my Beading Supplies section, you'll find sets of the 26mm round core beads I use for my beaded beads.

Speaking of freeform peyote,  I have three kits left for my Ocean Currents bracelet.  Please look closely at the second image in the listing as the lampworked beads included in the kit are similar, but definitely not the same as what I used in my original cuff.  I got as close as I could, but....

And if you're interested in freeform peyote ruffles, I have a small number of brooch kits leftover from a workshop I taught a while ago (Dragon Thief and Ocean Shores).  These have the exact beads I used in my Underwater Fantasy Stone Brooch series in Explorations.

Once a kit sells out, there likely won't be any more (maybe an occasional onsie-twosie leftover if I prep kits for an in-person workshops).  Kits will only be available on my Etsy store through Thursday, December 15th.  My last shipping day will be that Friday. After that, I'll still have all of my ebooks and automatic downloads, just nothing that requires shipping. 


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Exploring China - Beijing and the Temple of Heaven

My mother-in-law had always talked about wanting to visit China.  It was at the top of her bucket list, but for one reason and another she had never made it.  So almost two years ago, I started making plans.  And last month they came to fruition as Joe and I joined her on a two-week, Adventures by Disney, tour of China.

Why Adventures by Disney?  The easy answer is Disney knows how to do logistics better than almost anyone else, and that I trusted the Mouse to get me into and out of China safely.  I loved their itinerary - the tour included five internal flights spanning a huge hunk of China.  There is no way, absolutely none, we could have done everything we did in the same amount of time if we'd gone on our own.   I also liked that they offered a tour in October.  October is the off-season for China tourism, but all of my research indicated it was likely the best season in terms of heat, rain, and air quality.  Finally, neither Joe nor I had ever gone on a group travel tour previously, but we had high hopes for the type of travelers a Disney tour might attract.  The tour met every one of our expectations and more!

We technically arrived a day before the tour.  We lost a day during the flight over, so we left Friday, mid-day, and arrived Saturday evening, 27 hours Beijing-time after we left Seattle (12 hour flight + 15 hour time difference).  A Disney rep met us at the airport and drove us to our hotel, where we pretty much fell into our beds, only to keep waking up throughout the night as we tried to adjust to the time zone shift.

Touring cards make taxi rides much simpler
The tour didn't officially start until Sunday evening, but we got to meet our Adventure Guides early that morning.  They gave us several sightseeing suggestions, including the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven.  We decided to visit the later, so off we went in a taxi.

Very few taxi drivers speak any English.  We learned that before you get into a cab you need to have someone translate the destination into Chinese.  All of the hotels we stayed at had special cards with the name of the hotel written in Chinese and English on one side and a list of popular tourist destinations on the other.   These were essential, and made getting around on our own so much easier.  Fred, one of our Adventure Guides who happened to be from Beijing, also wrote a special card warning of my food allergy, in case I decided to eat out on my own.

The Temple of Heaven was the imperial religious complex, where the emporer and his entourage would come to pray (and sacrifice) for beneficence for the coming year - good harvests, good weather, good fortune from the heavens.  Today, it's both a tourist complex, and used as a community park by local residents.

Entry gates to the courtyard surround the main altar

The altar is several stories tall
The main altar is centered in a huge stone plaza.  The altar itself stands several stories tall; concentric rings constructed of white marble.  As you climb the stairs to each ring, you are surrounded entirely by stone. The courtyard is paved in stone, encircled by tall stone walls.  There are no trees or plants and it's very austere, relieved only by the intricate design work and stone carvings.  It's a very 'official' sort of place.

Something I had trouble with was the sense of perspective.  Standing at the entrance to the altar's courtyard, the altar seemed fairly squat - not too tall.  But appearances are deceiving in China.  The courtyard was so large, it made the altar feel small.  As we walked up to it, it grew larger and larger.  I had this same experience over and over during our tour through China, most notably in the Forbidden City.

Fantastic dragon rain-spouts ring the outer edge of the altar at eye level

From a distance, the Temple of Good Harvest looks a lot like the imperial altar, with the obvious addition of the temple at the top of all the stairs.

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest combined the altar structure with a temple
Sidesteps leading up to the central Temple of Good Harvest
peering into the Temple of Good Harvest

We exited the temple courtyard into another stone-paved, stone-walled courtyard with magnificent, carefully-tended cypress trees regularly spaced along its length.  Then we spied a round portal in one of the walls, an ancient cypress standing sentinel. 

This portal sentinel is as carefully tended as any bonsai

Walking under the arch of tree's branches and through the gate, we found ourselves in a carefully tended 'wild' space filled with trees, grasses and hundreds of little birds.  It felt a little like walking through the wardrobe into Narnia.  Watching the little birds flitting between the groundcover and the lower limbs of the trees made me think of traditional Chinese paintings that capture a wren or chickadee with a few brush strokes.
the other side of the wall
The dichotomy between the two sides of the wall was tremendous and was something we'd see time and again during our tour of China.  The differences between public and private. The stone austerity of places of authority, of man, and the carefully cultured wildness in the inner courtyards; places for peace, for the healing powers of nature.

The tiny Temple of a Hundred Flowers
Behind the woods lay a series of more formal gardens, which is where we found this lovely little temple. 

Interior ceiling of the Temple of Flowers, 'hidden' among the gardens

That evening, we got to meet our fellow adventurers over dinner back at our hotel.  During desert, a small troupe of acrobats ran into the room and performed for us, flipping and tumbling through the air.  We then got a chance to take pictures with the Monkey King and his followers.

And that was our first full day in China!