Friday, April 26, 2013

Mother's Day: Say It With Flowers (Handmade Flowers, that is!)

Mother's Day is May 12 ...  two weeks from this Sunday!  Whenever I think of Mother's Day, I think of flowers.  I'm sure its because its the "flower" time of year.  Spring bulbs and shrubs are blooming, and it is always right around Mother's Day that my mom and I go out and purchase annuals for planting in the garden and in pots for our porches, her patio and my deck.

Bouquets of fresh flowers are a beautiful and popular Mother's Day gift. I love having something blooming and fragrant in my house after the long, gray winter.  Unfortunately, fresh flowers fade and die after several days.

This year, why not give the "moms" in your life flowers that last ... not just for days, or even weeks, but for many, many years to come.  I'm talking about handmade creations that feature flowers -- flowers that can be worn and enjoyed all year long.

If you're familiar with this blog, or you've looked in my Etsy or Art Fire shops, you've probably noticed that I tend to use a lot of flowers and floral motifs in my handmade jewelry and accessories.  It's not like I consciously think, "I want to make something with flowers."  My mind just seems to wander that way when I am thinking about designs for my pieces.  Maybe it's because of being surrounded by my mom's gorgeous flower gardens as I was growing up.

In celebration of Mother's Day, I'm offering a 20% discount on all items in my Etsy and Art Fire shops, including any custom/made to order items.  To get the discount, you just need to enter Coupon Code: LOVEMOM at checkout.  The code works in both stores.  I even include free gift wrapping in a moss green organza bag with peach tissue, and a Mother's Day greeting postcard.  If you want me to ship the gift directly to your mom and print your message on the card, I can take care of that also -- just send me a note when you order.

Organza gift bags come in various sizes to accommodate your gift.

Here are just a few of the designs from my shops that feature flowers:

Blue Beaded Crocheted Flower Cuff Bracelet

Crocheted Beaded Purple Lavender Floral Hoop Earrings
Sunset Trillium Necklace
Crocheted Flower Garden Cuff Bracelet in Pinks, Greens, Maroons

Pink Crocheted Rose Flower Post Earrings

Pink Flower Crochet Necklace with Glass Beads

Gypsy Rose Wire, Bead, and Fiber Necklace

How Does Your Garden Grow Crocheted Purse

You-Can-Use-Me-For-Your-Stuff Clutch - Blooming Plaid

Flower Hair Comb - Purple Crocheted Beaded Lily

Teal Velvet Crocheted Flower Brooch with Beaded Silver Center

Vitrail Glass Flowers and Leaves Crocheted Wire Necklace

Of course, if your mom is not into flowers, I have plenty of non-floral designs, too. ;-)  The 20% off applies to everything.  Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Materially Different: Crocheting to Create Texture and Interest

I like to crochet with materials that are a bit off the beaten path.  I also like to combine materials that aren't usually used together.  I thought I'd share a couple of "materially different" ideas that  I've found to be fun and successful in adding texture, interest, and in some cases, practicality, to my pieces.

Wire crochet for jewelry has become fairly popular.  Using fiber to make necklaces, bracelets, and earrings has also become more common.  I enjoy combining the two materials.  Adding the wire gives body and a hint of metallic shine to many of my pieces.  It also gives an interesting texture.


I find that using 28 or 30 gauge wire gives me the most flexibility in my work -- both from a design standpoint and in terms of ability to work with wire and fiber together.  Lower gauge number wire tends to be stiffer and more difficult to manipulate when worked together with the thread-type fiber I use in my jewelry.

I've found it almost impossible to obtain 28 or 30 gauge wire in any kind of color range in my local arts and crafts stores, so I order it online.  My favorite wire to work with, because of the wide range of available colors and the quality of the wire, is Artistic Wire.  The color is permanent and does not scratch or flake when I work with it ... even when I use steel hooks.  However, even many online suppliers of Artistic Wire do not carry the thinner gauges I like to work with in a full range of colors.  One online source I've found that pretty consistently has the colors and gauge I need is Fusion Beads.  I'm sure there are others, but I'm providing a link to this site for your convenience.

I've found that using a combination of wire and fiber works particularly well for hair ornaments and hair accessories.  The wire gives these pieces the body they need to retain their shape when worn.  It also provides flexibility so that the hair accessory can be bent or molded as needed to look its best with a particular hairstyle.

In this bridal hair comb, silver wire, silver threads, and iridescent white threads are crocheted together.

The petals are crocheted with wire and glass beads, and then the edges of the petals are done in a silk fiber.

Silver wire is combined with a black, sequin embellished thread.

Iridescent pearl thread and gold wire crocheted together.

Gold wire, creamy silk cord.

I also like the wire and fiber combination in all kinds of jewelry.

In this cuff, the wire provides the needed body, as well a point of textural interest and a source of color.

Tangerine wire and metallic thread crocheted in fan pattern.
In these earrings, using wire with the fiber to create the circular motifs again provides the necessary body and stiffness for the design to remain intact when worn, and avoids the need to starch or shellac the motif, as you'd need to do to maintain the integrity of a design done solely in thread.

Silver wire and silver/pastel metallic thread.
In this necklace, the wire in combination with the fiber, adds interesting texture and shine elements.

In addition to the wire/fiber combination, I like trying out less common types of thread and fiber in my crocheted jewelry.  One fiber that I've particularly come to rely on is Kreinik metallic thread. It comes in so many gorgeous colors!  I like to use the very fine (#4) or fine (#8) braid.  Usually used for embroidery or needlepoint, I've found that it makes a great addition to my crocheted jewelry.  I usually combine it with another type of thread, or sometimes with wire.  It only comes on small yardage spools -- which makes it fine for jewelry, but not useful for other crochet projects.

As with the wire, unfortunately, it is not the easiest thing to lay your hands on -- at least not anywhere in the vicinity of where I live -- so I usually have to resort to buying it online.  Stitching Bits and Bobs, which is at least in Michigan, has a great selection, but I'm sure there are other sources.  In fact, Kreinik has a list on their website.

Other types of embroidery floss and thread also work well in crochet jewelry designs.  In this bridal necklace that I made for my daughter and the similar design I used for her bridesmaids' necklaces, I used the Kreinik metallic thread, wire, nylon cord, silk cord, and other types of embroidery thread.  They illustrate how combining these different types of materials can provide both color and textural interest.  Of course, the pretty beads help. :)

One other interesting material that I've used for crochet is tulle.  I simply cut the fabric into long thin strips and then use it as I would yarn, or any other fiber. 

I've used it in two, fairly bold, cuff designs.

Red tulle strips are crocheted along the edge and also are threaded through the stitch pattern in the body of the cuff.

Red and brown tulle strips were combined and crocheted around the cuff edge.

Both of these pieces again showcase the interesting effects that can be achieved by combining materials and crocheting them together.  Wire, tulle, and various fiber types were used in both cuffs.  You can see how adding the wire to the crocheted flowers allows them to retain their shape.

One other little tidbit.  While I didn't actually work them into crochet stitches (not sure how you could), I have combined crocheted elements with acorn caps to make earrings.  Some fun and unique pieces resulted.  I especially like the ones that look like jelly fish, or lanterns (depending on your perspective).

Have you ever crocheted with unique materials or combined materials in an interesting way?  If so, I'd love to hear about it.  It's always fun to experiment!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Chain Reaction - Creating Necklaces with Chains and Chain Stitches

Shortly after I began Gossamer Tangles, Jocelynn Brown, a columnist for the Detroit News, interviewed me for a feature article in the Detroit News' magazine, Homestyle.  She was particularly interested in a technique I was using to create necklaces by crocheting into metal chains.

After going on to explore other design ideas, I recently came back to the idea of crocheting into chains.  It is a very simple idea.  Basically, the metal chain is treated in exactly the same way as a chain stitch foundation, with stitches for the following row being worked into the chain links.  Here are a couple of the more recent pieces I've done utilizing this technique.

This week, I decided to try a new variation of this design idea -- working swags of beaded chain stitches along a metal chain to create a more bohemian-style design.  I didn't want to have the swags along the entire length of the chain, which would have given the piece more of a collar look.  I wanted the beaded chains to be somewhat intertwined and appear tangled.  To get this look, I decided to use four separate strands of threads and beads formed in chain stitches.  I worked very short links of chain stitches along the part of the chain that would go behind the neck and along the shoulder, and then began the swags toward the front of the neckline.  I alternated the lengths of the swags, and I alternated the links in the chain where I anchored the chain stitch swags with single crochets.

The first steps in creating this Chain Reaction necklace, involved working out that design and then determining what the fiber color, bead colors, and bead pattern would be for each strand.  The details of the bead pattern and number of bead pattern sets was critical, because the beads had to be strung before crocheting the swags along the chain.  I worked out my ideas in a small notebook so that I would have the numbers and pattern ideas readily available as I worked.

The next step was to string the required number of beads onto the threads I chose in the proper order.

Finally, I was able to start crocheting!  I began by anchoring the fiber with a single crochet in the first link of the metal chain.  I then worked a pattern of 4-5 chain stitches (depending on which fiber and hook size I was working with at the time) followed by a single crochet in the next chain link.  At the tenth link, I began the swags, working beads into the chain stitches in the pattern I had planned, and securing the swags with a single crochet in every other link of the metal chain.

The same process was followed with each type of fiber/beads.  The anchoring single crochets for the swags on the second strand were worked into the alternate metal chain links that were not used for the first strand.  The third strand was worked in the same chain links as the first, and the fourth in the same spaces as the second.

And here's the final result!

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think of this design.  I'd love to know your "reactions".