Sunday, May 17, 2009

Not the same old katcha-counter...

I actually love katcha-counters. Something about the satisfying sound - katcha - as you press the counter at the end of every row. A few days ago my friend Andrea mentioned that she wanted to try making a beaded counter, but didn't have the supplies or the know-how. I told her I had a box of beading supplies that weren't getting much use, and I had made a few beaded bracelets so I could offer a little bit of know-how!

Understanding exactly what my friend wanted to try and make took a bit of exploring on the web. Once I realized what she wanted to make I was excited to make one for myself too. It seemed that making a chain of jump rings large enough to slip onto your needle was the basic premise, and then you could embellish to your heart's content!

I took a trip into the city to get supplies. I was headed to Beads World on Broadway, but wandered into another great store, Bead Empire at 39th and Avenue of the Americas. Both stores have great inventory and customer service. I didn't realize there was this whole "beading district" within the Fashion District - there were several other beading stores within this 2 block radius! At Bead Empire I purchased the jump rings, crimp beads, and drop bead posts I thought we would need. Just as I was getting ready to leave I happened to glance at a wall that had spools of already-made chain on it and saw this:

Tah-dah! Suddenly this seemed like a MUCH better idea. I bought all the other bits and pieces anyways - you can never have too many crafting supplies :).

Here are a couple of pictures of the embellishment I made to attach to the end of the chain - it looks like it might be heavy, but all of these beads were actually quite light-weight. These are just stacked onto a drop bead post (I think that is what you call it!) with a couple of small spacer beads here and there.

The mathematical mechanics of the counter are simple - the chain is 20 rings long - 10 small and 10 large. Depending on the size needle that you are using, you simply slip a ring between two stitches, and as you are knitting you simply move to the next ring down on the chain each time you pass over it as you knit. So that will get you through 10 rows. And what if you need to count more than 10 rows? That's where this bit comes in:

For the first 10 rows you would leave this off of the chain. When you get to the 11th row, you attach this counter using the lobster clasp onto the 1st large or small ring - whichever size you AREN'T using to fit your needles. Then you start counting your next set of 10 rows. Here's a picture of the counter showing knitting at row 11.

And here is a picture of the counter showing knitting at row 14.

You would leave the lobster clasp embellishment in place attached to the 1st ring for 10 rows, and then bump it down to the next large or small ring (depending on which size DOESN'T fit your needles). With this method you should be able to count to 100 rows. Actually, I guess 110...

This part still needs a little bit of work. I wanted the lobster clasp to be easy to open and close so I used a large size, but the clasp is a bit too heavy. I think a medium clasp will be fine, I just didn't have one in my beading supplies. When I get down to the Bead District again I will pick one up. One parting artistic shot - all taken with my cell phone cam, btw!

I always seem to need a food reward for my projects - hmmm. That explains a lot. Anywho, today I made Almond Poppyseed Bread. Delish!

Monday, May 11, 2009


Here are some of the amazing dolls that were on exhibit at Artistic Figures in Cloth:

This is another doll by my teacher, Allison Marano. This one is called "Tarin." Please visit Allison's website to see more of her figures. They seem to capture perfectly a moment in the fleeting life of a fairy, pixie, or elf.
Below are two dolls by another instructor, Susan Barmore, "Joeie" and "Treesa."
Both Allison and Susan were instructors at AFIC. It is very hard to choose which class to take! Susan's 'folk art' figures and dolls are really different, and beautifully painted in a primitive/modern kind of way.

Inez Brasch was standing next to her figure, "Morrigan," when I stopped to look at it. Her name rang a bell with me immediately. I remembered seeing a doll grouping at the last doll conference I attended, more than ten years ago, with her name attached to it. Inez explained to me that Morrigan is an Irish folklore figure who takes care of the dead. It is hard to see it in this small picture, but Morrigan has a very beautiful, serene face. There are better photos on Inez's Picture Trail.

Artistic Figures in Cloth

Allison Marano, "Grapevine Girls"

I recently attended the Artistic Figures in Cloth doll conference in Columbus, Ohio. I haven't been to a lot of doll conferences, but this has to be one of the best ones. Cindy Sieving and her staff were so well organized about all parts of the conference -- workshops, exhibits, vendor's, opening banquet, hotel accommodations, etc. Even the food was delicious! -- lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, etc. It was great fun, and I took a wonderful workshop with Allison Marano of Faewyck Studios in Erie, PA. We learned how to make the tiniest, graceful fingers, and many other great techniques.

The opening banquet was a lot of fun (even tho' our table was the last to go up to the buffet, no chocolate dessert left!). We worked on round-robin doll pins for each person to wear during the conference, with only 7 minutes to add something to each doll as it moved around the table! There were some amazing hats worn, as the theme of the evening was "Hats & Heels." When I get the CD from the conference I will post a couple photos of the hats.

My roommates, Pat & Mary Ellen, were super. I was happy to learn that they weren't night owls, but I think we all had a little trouble sleeping because you get really excited and energized being surrounded by so much talent! We had little mini workshops in our room, Mary Ellen showed me how to make fabric beads, and Pat makes interesting cording out of artistic wire.

I brought some Pin Poppet kits to the conference. Wasn't sure any would sell, as the design is kind of traditional, and sweet, and contemporary doll makers are creating some pretty wild and innovative designs these days. But I did well and almost sold out of my kits and Pin Poppet patterns. I used to teach the design in workshops, and provided a kit for my students, but I am retiring the kits for good and will only make a few Pin Poppets to order or for guild raffles, etc.

This Navajo Pin Poppet was made for one of the raffle baskets at my sister's guild fashion show a couple years ago. And the one below was made for a friend's daughter's school raffle.

The little (3 1/2") pincushion doll has a needlecase inside, and the doll comes apart at the waist. A good place to store those precious, specialty needles.

Here I am painting the faces on almost sixty little doll heads. Phew!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Fresh Flowers for Your Lapel!

I love the idea of wearing a little nosegay of violets or violas in the springtime. Here is a cute way to keep them fresh for a few hours longer. You know those tiny glass vials that you get free perfume samples in at the department store cosmetic counter? You have to ask for them, the sales staff never seem to offer them without a request!

The first step is to select some lace trims, ribbons and buttons to cover the glass vial. Using Fabri-Tac glue, adhere a piece of lace to the top and bottom edges of the vial. Let dry a few minutes.

Next, with the same glue, adhere a pin back to the vial. I use a pin back that is almost as long as the vial is tall. Let this dry an hour or so. Glue the narrow ribbons you have chosen to the vial, with ribbon ends overlapping in the back, over the pin back. This will help to secure the pin back to the vial.

The bottom ribbon will probably have to be trimmed as it won't fit over the pin back (the pin back is almost, but not quite, as long as the vial).

Embellish with trim, or a button. On the example above I glued a piece of silk ribbon flower trim and added a tiny rhinestone. On the example below I tied a little pearl button with embroidery thread.

Something has to be added behind the decorated vial, otherwise the pin wants to flop to the side when you wear it. To fix this problem you can either add a ribbon or lace bow (glue it over the pin back) or make a felt leaf to attach to the pin. I used a fusible adhesive to attach buckram to the back of the felt, to give it body. The leaf is a tulip poplar, which I hand sketched from an illustration on the internet. Transfer the sketch to the back of the buckram/felt sandwich and cut it out. I painted the edge of the leaf with fabric paint. It is hard to see, but I also painted lines, using a Micron Brush marker, on the felt to resemble the veining on the tulip poplar leaf.

Cut two holes in the leaf to push the pin back through. This was a bit of a challenge. Make sure it is going to fit before you apply the glue.

Instead of sketching a leaf, you can always go outside and find a leaf that is the right size and shape and simply trace around it onto the buckram. Here is a redbud leaf that I picked today.

I think I got these little fabric flowers to put in the pin/mini vase at Paper Source in Porter Square, but you can find them in other places too. Or, you could pick some fresh violets or other tiny flowers, and wear them on your lapel for a fresh and friendly spring greeting. To fill the little vial with water, use a pipette, or one of those little coffee stirrer straws.

I wore my fascinator at the Artistic Figurers in Cloth banquet, and got a prize for it, in the "Vintage Chic" category!