Saturday, 23 November 2013

Riches from a far away land

I've found that a really good way of getting lots of different bits of fabric with Japanese patterns is to go wild at places that sell handkerchiefs or small furoshiki. These are the ones I picked up on this trip, from a stall at a festival in the town I used to teach in, 100 yen shops, a stand of products made from chirimen fabric and traditional patterns at a game/anime goods store in Ueno, a shop in Kyoto's amazing Sannnenzaka, a shop in the Kappabashi area of Asakusa, and at duty free in Narita airport.

The maple leaf fabric is from a vintage garment, bought at a stand at a festival. (I nearly bought an amazing cloth bolt for a yukata at a nearby shop, but I'm still not good enough to make the best use of it.) The dense flower pattern is a tenugui from a 100 yen shop, and the three at the bottom are super-soft gauze handkerchiefs from the Ninenzaka area below Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto.

Small furoshiki bought at Narita airport duty free.

Handkerchiefs with traditional patterns bought at a small shop near the Kappabashi kitchenware equipment area of Asakusa in Tokyo. The shopkeeper and the friend I was with told me that all of the very traditional patterns like these have meanings - they symbolised protection, good fortune, etc.

Bunnies, flowers and fish.

I love these simple striped fabrics - the colour combinations really make them work. The bottom right handkerchief and the one lying over the others are from a stand in a game/anime goods shop in Ueno.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Mind the glass!

A friend who is seriously into glass (by which I mean owning her own portable hospital oxygen generator to super-heat propane) invited me over last weekend to have a go at making glass beads. She was a great teacher and I managed to make some pretty good pieces that day!

Some of them ended up looking like turnips, but I like them anyway.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Made! Miyuki Tila beads "Monochrome Bracelet" kit

Even though we've been back in Zurich for nearly a month now, I still haven't sorted out and put away all the things I treated myself to in Japan - and one of them was this "Tila Beads Recipe" kit from Miyuki. I bought it in the stunning Yuzawaya craft shop in Kamata, just south of Tokyo on the JR and Tokyu lines. I hadn't seen any Tila beads in person before, and couldn't find any on sale in any of the craft shops I went to, so I snapped this kit up when I saw it (it was the only one in the shop!).

The kit comes with instructions for both the Monotone Bracelet and another kit which uses beaded beads made from Tila beads plus larger beads spaced out on a long necklace.

The contents of the kit, including 20m of black Miyuki monocord, a (very!) flexible beading needle, five colours of Tila beads, some matt black Delica beads, three fire-polished black drops, three headpins, and a small length of chain.

The instructions call for 2m of thread, doubled, with a 20cm tail to attach the clasp at the end - but this is how far I got with that. I ended up using as much thread as I can comfortably work with (about 4m doubled to 2m) and then followed their very nice instructions for tying off in the middle of the bracelet before joining the same amount of thread again. I had enough left over to work the clasp, but not much excess.

The instructions are simple - brick stitch - but following the pattern given for the colours gives a pleasing not-quite-random result. The needle is very thin (one of the few times I've really wanted one of those needle threaders) and bends easily.

The finished product! There were nine Tila beads left over, so I made a little pendant.

The mix of matt black, gloss black, frosted, silver and clear makes for a very nice variation around a very small colour base.

Unusually for a Miyuki product, there were two misshapen Delicas, and one of the fire-polished drop beads was cracked at the top.

  • Flat square beads with holes on each side? Tila beads practically cry out to be square-stitched and it's a really simple and relaxing kit to make.
  • Using the black thread to give a 'stripe' to the clear beads is a nice touch.
  • Plenty of thread and extra beads.
  • Very clear instructions, including tying off, where and how to tie knots along the thread path, opening/closing jump rings and making a loop for headpins.
  • The thread length in the instructions was far too short - unless you weren't meant to use doubled thread, but it shows two strands taped down. (I never use tape, instead I passed the thread through one of the fire-polished beads as a stopper bead.)
  • The monocord thread was quite rough and fibrous. It feels very strong, especially doubled, but it isn't as flexible as some other threads and tends to stick in the eye of the needle and not pull the thread tight.
Overall, it's a great kit, with excellent instructions and it gives you a simple and effective way of showing off Tila beads!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Love it? Reuse it!

I'm always looking for storage boxes for my jewellery supplies, and although I acquired quite a few DIY storage boxes - the kind with the internal partitions to create lots of little sections - the sections are quite deep and narrow, and the hard plastic sometimes scraped things as I was fishing them out.

One unavoidable part of any trip to Japan is omiyage - literally, something from the local area, but in practice a small gift that you bring when you visit someone or bring back if you've been away on holidays.

Japan is still big on packaging, and food items to be given as gifts are often individually wrapped in paper or foil and then placed in formed trays inside boxes. The overall effect is beautiful, but you're left with almost as much wrapping as food in the end.

But there's always reuse! This colourful little box, which originally contained hiyoko cakes, which are sold at Tokyo Station, is great for holding smaller items like phone straps and earrings when I don't have room to put everything out on display. (If you look closely at the photo in the article linked above, you can just see the little yellow sign on the far right which says ひよこ - hiyoko!)

Inside, there are nine moulded compartments, which are reasonably deep but with smooth sides so it's easy to slide things out and they don't get damaged.

I have a few others like this, but this one is one of my favourites. ^_^

What about you? If you have any great, unusual or crafty storage ideas, please let me know!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Absolutely not stalking. Honest.

I'm meeting someone for the first time tomorrow. We're both members of the same profession and professional organisations, and she's coming into town to do a few things and we're having lunch. On a whim - and since I seem to have acquired the ability to get rid of things - I popped an enamelled paperclip into a gift bag and set about constructing one of the gift boxes I got ages ago in a pound shop in Brighton, of all places, to put it all in.

And then I thought, why not something else too? I have loads of phone straps made up from when I was doing craft fairs. But it's not so easy when you don't know what kind of colours someone likes. So... I searched for her online. And found a picture on her membership profile on a site and could see that she is blonde and was wearing some kind of party dress with a gold ribbon. So, I raided my stash of Swarovski and came up with a phone strap with an AB coated pale yellow-orange heart. That'll do.

Well, she might be doing the same with me.

It also reminded me to put a strap on a very old "MOM" construction I have, that I'm going to give to Mom when I see her in Paris next month. And that I haven't taken a photo of the chainmail flower kit I just finished (bar not being able to find my split rings, which are probably still in storage boxes down in the keller) and put it up here yet. That's next on the list!

It was a rush to go through some of my things, even the ready-made ones, and think like that again.

Monday, 21 June 2010

I know it's Father's Day, but...

First of all, the only jewellery my dad wears are cufflinks, and I've had my mom's bracelet to repair for about four months now. So, I spent Father's Day rebuilding a Mother's Day bracelet!

The focal point is the three letter cubes, made from sterling silver. The whole bracelet is threaded on two lengths of nylon-coated wire and finished off with a bar and loop clasp. One of the wires had broken off and some of the beads lost, so I decided to replace all of the smaller seed beads to keep them consistent and supplement the larger 4mm Swarovski bicones and fire-polished Czech beads with some more from my stocks. The whole theme is gold, green and brown, all colours that suit my blonde mom beautifully!

This is the second repair for this bracelet. It's well constructed with tough materials and well finished off... but mom insists on wearing it all the time, everywhere. To bed, when washing up, when in the bath... and handmade jewellery isn't meant to take that kind of abuse! But it's a pleasure to remake it every time knowing that it's been worn out that way.

The photos aren't as nice as I would have liked - I need to get a better light source and work on the white balance on the camera again. Like finishing off the tigertail, there are some things that have grown a bit hazy from lack of use.

The other thing I'm working on is a maille kit from Beadsisters, which so far is mainly making me wish I had more smooth-jawed pliers!

Why, hello there!

Okay, that was a bit longer than expected. I was reunited with my jewellery supplies two weeks ago when the movers finally arrived in the middle of a huge thunderstorm - they had to back their van down the ramp to the underground garages, although it was too tall to get inside, and we all joined in to unload it and get it into our garage as quickly as possible. Since then, I've been unpacking things bit by bit when I have time and finally have my rolling case full of semi-precious stones, silver findings and beads upstairs in the living room. There is still some sorting out to do to find the right place for everything, especially now that I have a small stash of fabrics and a mini sewing machine as well! But everything is in the same country, and that's a step forward for now.