Russian Spiral Jewelry…continued

Today I continued to work on these patterns and figure out the kinks (e.g. switching threads, tying off, clasp vs. connection for a roll-off bracelet).

Happy with my progress…


It was fun seeing what different color combos created.
It was fun seeing what different color combos created.

The clasp on the third bracelet (from left) didn’t work out so I’m going to have to re-work it. (It’s tricky to get the “v” effect from those tiny connector beads (accomplished in the middle bracelet). Still learning, but happy to be wearing the first two bracelets…learning…!

Tomorrow I’m taking a class to learn how to make a Flat Ribbon Kumihimo Bracelet…pictures to follow!

Jewelry: Russian Spiral

I took a jewelry class today to learn how to bead the Russian Spiral pattern.

I messed up A LOT and created one and a half bracelets (I’ll probably re-do the half blue one pictured first below).

It’s very loose and mooshy – as far as beading goes…but I really like this clasp – I’ll probably undo this bracelet and try again.

Here’s the semi-winner/runner-up of the day…

Interesting variations based on bead size and color...
Interesting variations based on bead size and color… 

I used size 11, red – size 11, rose gold – size 8, red (actual color numbers available on request. 🙂 )

Cool clasp - note that the top bead connect is cool. The bottom bead connect...not so cool...
Cool clasp – note that the top bead connect is cool. The bottom bead connect…not so cool…

I am learning, because it’s the name of the game.

I’m still not sure how to gracefully switch my needle from one set of threads to another (maybe I should just start with 6 full yards of thread – to avoid the tie-off problem mid-way?! Sounds like the possibility of lots-o-knots…). My bracelet is two different widths for some reason (first half is “fatter” and after I tied off and re-started the second half is “skinnier.” I haven’t figure out why yet – same stitches – same threads….) Maybe my gauge keeps getting tighter with my bead stitching as I go along.

Making art and figuring it out as I go along…

Humbly Learning Pine Coiling

I watched a few videos and read a few stitch guides…and I’m pretty happy with the results! These are “mini-baskets” so I could learn some new stitches and play around with different lashings. I learned many things…

group_stump3 group_stump2

artificial sinew in a v-stitch
artificial sinew in a v-stitch
blue button in the middle
blue button in the middle



black waxed thread with beads
black waxed thread with beads
I think the black thread should go all the way around…(I was going for half/half…didn’t work out)


Black jewelry wire (see the diamond shapes?)
Black jewelry wire (see the diamond shapes?)
inside button - I'll go for less wire wraps next time
inside button – I’ll go for less wire wraps next time


the bottom of this mini-basket...might be nicer than the inside...
the bottom of this mini-basket…might be nicer than the inside…or maybe not…










































That was a fun week of weaving and coiling (kind of rough on the fingers – lots of great ideas…). I’m reading through my Alabama Chanin Stitch book and ready to do some hand-stitching next!!

Sea Grass Basket

Thank you Donna Sakamoto Crispin for the base pattern!

Sea Grass Basket
Sea Grass Basket
Shells from my collection – Ocean-drilled spaces…
the bottom of the basket
the bottom of the basket
front of basket – overlapping braid end
sea grass braid
purple sea grass braid
beads inside
surprise surfline beads inside
It works upside-down too!
It works upside-down too!


Basket front
Basket front

I’m having so much fun with this basket (it clinks when I move it!).

It feels, smells and sounds like the ocean…

Geography on the Dinner Table

I completed this project about 15 years ago when I attended my daughter’s first grade orientation and heard that geography was last on the list (e.g: they might get to it on Thursday afternoons).

I had a wooden dining room table from a relative with water marks all over the top. So I adhered a National Geographic map to the top, then varnished the top (with what turned out to be old shellac – turned out yellowish, which makes the whole thing look like it belongs on a pirate ship: bonus!).

Change chairs...whole new world!
Change chairs…whole new world!

I used the wrong adhesive and there’s wrinkles-turned-into-holes over time…but the idea stands solid. And every parent who has seen it or heard about it seems enthralled, so I thought to share.

“My Educational Geography Plus Plan”: Start early in elementary with a map on the table and play games (e.g. I Spy, Hot/Cold location, etc.). Then move the table or switch chairs, so the focus is different. As a family, we ate three meals a day at the table and it’s a great way to bring geography and learning into the daily family chatter.

Overflowing with Art

Hello World! I’m back from a week long art retreat in Portland, Oregon called Art and Soul Retreat. SO.VERY.ENGERGIZING.AND.INSPIRING. If you find yourself near any of their upcoming locations I encourage you to check it out: authentic artists, inspiring teachers, sharing participants. I could go on and on…and I shall… 🙂

Art and Soul Retreat-ing

Pics to follow and teacher info below for “enquiring minds” like myself who like to read ahead. They were all AH-MAY-ZING teachers who shared a plethora of information and technique (and supplies!) and I highly recommend checking them out (in person if you are nearby – they’re from all over).

I took 6 day-long classes learning the following:

  1. Wet (Nuno) Felting – made a scarf!
    (LeBrie Rich – Pen Felt)
  2. Doll making with cloth and paper clay – WIP! 🙂 Paper clay is fun!
    (Lulu Moonwood Murakami – lulumoonarts)
  3. Needle felting with a sewing machine – made 3 bases I’m in love with! (broke some needles – I’m not proud – “it’s part of the process” – more on that later)
    (Rebeckah Meier Designs)
  4. Gold leaf and copper strung African beads on a half ostrich egg bowl – featured below!
    (Debbie Rijns, who specializes in Precious Metal Clay work in South Africa – I couldn’t find just one link that summarizes her artistic work – best to internet-search her)
  5. Hand stitching and embellishing the Alabama Chanin Way – after all these years of hand-sewing I learned a new way to thread, knot and sew. Amazing. (WIP! I bought a shirt pattern…there’s A LOT OF HAND stitching to do…hopefully I can finish it while I’m still this size. 🙂
    (Natalie Chanin designed the pattern and technique – Patti Calande taught the class)
  6. Basket weaving with sea grass – another WIP (boy did I dig this one! Weaving is so meditative for me.)
    (Donna Sakamoto Crispin – the amazing artist/teacher blend we’re all looking for! Donna was great!)

A Finished Product: “Home Base”

I enjoyed figuring out this artistic vision as I went. Layer work is still a challenge for me, though I learned so much about the value of strategic layering throughout the week.

This one is named “Home Base” because it incorporates elements of all my home bases (virtual, physical and metaphysical).

These photos are staged on the lobby floor of the hotel in a brief moment of Oregon sun (yes, I was laying on the ground taking pictures when my significant other arrived…he wasn’t surprised and offered to help…bless our lovies!)

African album beads and grass seeds, copper wire, seashells, monkeywood base, gold leaf edging
African album beads (red/black around edge), grass seeds & Ethiopian silver (red/green hanging right side), copper wire, seashells, monkey wood base, gold leaf edging, armadillo symbol from Sand People drawings (for me on this bowl this represents my hometown of San Antonio, TX).


A look at the inside of the bowl. African porcupine quill at the front.
A look at the inside of the bowl. African porcupine quill at the front. I learned how to “stitch” with copper wire (lesson learned: it pretends to be like thread, but it absolutely isn’t thread in some crucial ways – blergh!). I especially appreciated the way Debbie taught me to “hide” the wire behind each inside disc. That’s some tricky sh*t that took me LOTS-O-PRACTICE to secure those beads.


I had a touristy seashell bracelet in my stash, so I cut i apart and stitched the seashells onto the ostrich shell with copper wire. They had 2 holes each already drilled so it was pretty easy to incorporate.
I had a touristy seashell bracelet in my stash, so I cut it apart and stitched the seashells onto the ostrich shell with copper wire. The shells had 2 holes each already drilled so they were pretty easy to incorporate. The image at the bottom of this view is the Coral Tree seed pod, which grows in South Africa and ALSO in Southern California (in my front yard!). It was a nice connecting home image for me, and it sits opposite the armadillo on the bowl.


The tiny coiled copper wires are the beginning and end of my beading work (fun shadows!).
The tiny coiled copper wires (left of photo) are the beginning and end of my beading work (fun shadows!).

It was good layer work for me – I started with the green wash paint inside and dots in the middle, and they ended up guiding the bead design.


Lovin' the sun on this one!
Lovin’ the sun on this one!

I really enjoyed this class, learning about gold leaf and incorporating South African Sand People images into my work (there’s also: giraffe and the “thread of knowing,” which represents our collective conscious dreams).

Get out there and try something new!
Crafting on…!

Netsuke Mermaids

I made this several years ago from some mermaid netsuke I purchased in Hanalei, Kauai. It hangs in a window of my office and today I happened to look up when it was catching some cool sunlight.

Mermaid netsuke, round wooden beads, shells, gemstone chips on a hemp string
Mermaid netsuke, wooden beads, shells, gemstone chips on a hemp string

I made it one day on a whim when I was cleaning up. I had these netsuke that didn’t want to stand up on my desk (they aren’t really made to work as statues), and a set of chakra gemstones that didn’t want to stay strung together. I have seashells in, well, every room of my house now that I think about it. And out in the garden strewn about in flower beds. Huh. I live at least 20 minutes from the beach but it turns out I’ve surrounded myself with ocean artifacts right here “in the inland!” (I have a couple of bottles of sand too.) This is as good a time as any to mention that I think I might have been a mermaid in another life.

the wooden beads between them used to be blue - looks like they're fading with the sun
the wooden beads between them used to be blue – looks like they’re fading with the sun

I love a lot of things about this piece:

  • I made it in 20 minutes
  • with pieces of things that:
    • were cluttering my world (including a big paper clip to hang it from the curtain rod – so much cleaning happened)
    • but that also mean a lot to me (I remember where I got each piece, minus the paper clip)
  • and it’s functional.
  • It came together so simply, with a short series of fun logistical puzzles (what materials have holes in them that I can use? what cord will make it through these tiny natsuke holes? where do the knots go and which beads can slide?).
this mermaid carries her child on her back - love!
this mermaid carries her child on her back – love!

You can see the chakra gemstones in this shot (slightly out of focus) and I forgot until I saw this close-up…there’s a Hamsa at the bottom!! This symbol has particular significance to me after a trip to Spain several years ago when I was lucky enough to visit a museum in Cordoba that focuses on the story of Sephardic Jews in Spain. It’s called Casa de Sefarad and I highly recommend it if you find yourself in southern Spain. I felt a deep connection with the people in the stories I learned there and began to appreciate the history and symbolism of the Hamsa.

I had to get my scrapbook out to remember the name of the museum, and now I have to share a couple of pages. (Apologies for the lighting – it was hard to capture on a whim.)

Page from my Spain scrapbook for that day.
Page from my Spain scrapbook for that day

The picture in the bottom left is of the museum owner/creator, his translator, and the back of my head listening to them. It was an honor to hear his story.

OK – I’m officially out of control with the reminiscing and memorabilia. But just this one last thing.

scrapbook page focusing on mosaics
scrapbook page focusing on mosaics (+ amazing pasta restaurant, upper right corner)

I took approximately 1.6 zillion photos of the mosaic and tile work that decorated just about every surface in every historic building in Spain. Some of these were ceiling tiles and the zoom on my camera was pretty amazing, so I was able to print and cut these out as if they sat inches from my face.

For those that actually were in reach, I had to touch them from time to time. All placed by hand, by artisans, so many years ago. I’m certain their energy and dreams still hum within each tile.

Feeling the energy of history
Feeling the energy of history

Making Patterns

Mission accomplished: I joined hitrecord today and added one record so far: This is me!

I accepted one challenge and shared a nature picture (“Morning Dew”) and I spent the rest of the day thinking about the Patterns Book. I plan to submit a writing sample for the book – it’s in draft at the moment.

But first I imagined patterns and started sketching

Making patterns 1
Making patterns 1
Making patterns 2
Making patterns 2






Patterns 3
Patterns 3
Patterns 4
Patterns 4






Patterns 5
Patterns 5
Patterns 6
Patterns 6









Here’s the thing…patterns are a paradox.
They suggest regularity and repetition but the more they repeat
the more they express things outside “the norm.” 

A “pattern” suggests something repeatable, and yet behavioral patterns can be so unpredictable. when a human hand is applied to a pattern, you never know what might happen.

Repetition is as common as deviation.

Paul the Mushroom

Bringing the Pieces Together

I realized (after the fact) that on Sunday I could have taken pictures of all the things in my daughter’s dorm room that I’ve made for her over the last 2 years. Some used patterns (which doesn’t really fit my requirement for original art every day, but I have Christmas presents to make and they can’t all get done on Christmas eve!), some I improvised based on an idea I saw, and some I just made up.

So here’s some fun characters I’ve conjured up in the last two years from patterns (all hail the queens and kings of crochet pattern-makers, for they make it possible for the rest of us to make coherent gifts from time to time).

These first two patterns are by lalylala (here she is on Etsy and here’s her www site). I love her dolls and I may or may not have bought three other patterns that haven’t been made yet. They call for something called “fingering yarn” or “sock yarn” – it’s 4-ply and feels so delicate to work with. Plus her patterns cite yarns from Europe that I sometimes can’t find – so it’s a fun challenge all round.

Without further ado, here is Paul the Mushroom:
(click on each picture for a bigger version)

Paul the Mushroom with his cap

Paul the Mushroom without his cap
without hat (the hair is my design – most of her patterns are bald)










And more recently we added Rocco the Raccoon to the family.

Rocco and his mask
Rocco wears a mask so no one knows he’s a raccoon. Ssshhhh!
Rocco without his hat
Rocco has a bowl cut
Rocco's rockin' the bowl cut!
Close-up of the bowl cut (all hair my design!)










Argh! I just realized I didn’t take a pic of him without his mask…’cause it’s remove-able y’all! Too bad. I’ll ask my daughter to grab a shot for me of him in the Santa Cruz wilds going sans mask. (Extra info: I made additional masks for him but didn’t have time to attach the strings. There’s a purple sparkly one for when he’s feeling disco and a green one for when he wants to hang out with Paul and pretend to be a mushroom. Maybe he’ll get them for Christmas next year.)

My next doll was many years in the making. It’s one of those patterns where I got stuck and “put it away for later.” But my recent foray into my WIPs brought it to the forefront, and because my best friend requested it (about 5 years ago) I thought I’d better get on it. So I pulled it off as a Christmas present this past year (finally!) and I’m so glad…’cause she’s pretty cute. I added tiny beads to the edges of her wings, bodice and skirt but I’m not sure they show up in these photos.

(Pattern by rabbizdesign: on Etsy)

Tinkerbell in her garden
Tink with her arms crossed
She’s so cute!
Tink's flying apparatus
From the back – maybe you can see the beads on the wings?










It wasn’t the easiest pattern to follow, but it’s the best one I’ve found online for Tinkerbell.

I really enjoy crocheting dolls, animals, amigarumi. Putting the pieces together kind of stresses me out but it’s worth sticking with it because the results are so cute. In the past I’ve made ninjas, amazons, medusa, rabbits, monkeys, dogs…wonder how many pics I might have taken of those past efforts…maybe we’ll see in another post. Anyways it’s fun seeing the pieces come together. More to come on that.

P.S. This post made me think of the very first doll I made, who happens to be on the shelf right next to me. So we had a quick photo shoot. I figure I must have been somewhere between 7 and 9 years old. I suspect Mrs. Stoddard helped me with this (love to that sewing angel). Her pinafore dress looks like it gave me a run for my money – there’s gathers where they prolly shouldn’t be and messy connection points all over the place. But she has distinct legs and a dress that covers them – I’m impressed!

My first sewn doll!
My first sewn doll! The facial detail amazes me. eyes, rosy cheeks and lips challenge me to this day. So brave, this new seamstress.
detail of back
Backside of the dress. Looks like a crossed pinafore w/ gathers was challenging…but accomplished!

Mermaids complete

Aren’t weekends and holidays wonderful?! So much more time in the day to work on art than the usual workweek grind. Today I finished the Mermaid page and was able to admire it in the sun – I’m loving this silver and gold acrylic paint!

But first, some close-ups of Gypsy’s page in the sun – trying to pick up on the cool effects of the gold and silver paint.


IMG_6405 IMG_6406

OK – now the mermaid page. These gals have a lot going on.


The background I showed you yesterday was basically made of these mermaid tail designs, using metallic paint to accentuate. I think I have a tendency right now to make my background so noticeable that anything attached to the foreground has to compete. The Gypsy Rose Lee page was supposed to feature an articulated dancer, but it got so interesting with the corset shapes that I decided to leave the dancer for another page.

And on the Mermaid page, the original tails in the background are almost too much for the mermaids trying to swim around on top of them. But I used a black pen to accentuate their arms and torso, which helped. I also used the silver acrylic paint to highlight the edges of the mermaids. It was less successful than the cream colored paint I used to highlight the corsets on the Gypsy page, but it’s still interesting when you move it around in the sunlight.

From the upper left of the page, here’s the first mermaid. She seem serious and disgruntled. I’m not sure why…the reason is off the page to the left. These arm templates (created from scratch) ended up looking like Incredible Hulk arms sometimes, which I found amusing.

Upper right corner: She’s obviously way too cool for mermaid school. Plus she’s obviously spending a lot of time at the mermaid gym around the corner (I mean, look at those arms!). The future’s so bright (underwater), she has to wear shades.

Turns out this gal is actually a US Olympic swimmer (shame on me for not getting her name before I cut her picture out of a magazine – sorry ’bout that!). She posed like this in a bathing suit (of course) at the exact same scale as my tiny mermaid tails – YAHOO! She looks pretty bad-ass and I love her (I didn’t even plan that thing with her hands exactly on the mermaid hips – sometimes art just happens. 🙂

She’s the most genuinely joyous mermaid on the page and I appreciate her joie de vivre.

Bottom right corner is this gal. She’s beefy and beautiful, and I don’t think she’s happy with the gal to her right. She seems rip-raring for a fight.

And here’s happy-go-lucky Hulk Arms in the bottom right. I think she might be saying, “And…th…that’s all folks!”


I hung my pine needle creation in the dining room (it’s the only nail in the house basically, so I use it to highlight my latest artistic find. I’ve spackle-ed too many holes in too many walls to make more in my home…it’s kind of a problem. I’ve actually spent hundreds to frame crochet pieces that are now in storage. It’s stressful to make holes in the wall y’all!).


Wow – now isn’t that a close-up? I guess I’m still learning about this wordpress interface and my camera – how does one get something to show up this close all the time?

I decided to call this piece: God’s Eye (with a nod to the God’s Eye patterns many of us have made of yarn and a wooden cross). You can definitely see in this close-up where all my connection points are. I chose to use the brown thread for all of them and used less as I moved top to bottom in the pattern. Connecting the crochet patterns with threads of the same color would obviously render different results. I’ll probably try that soon.

Here’s some more close-ups:


I’m learning some cool new techniques and enjoying this three-day weekend!