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Golden state

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True Californians look up at our dry hillsides and call them “golden.” (Never brown!) And in this beautiful state, it’s now the season of gold. It came a little earlier perhaps because of the drought, but it usually hits right around my birthday in early May. Let’s celebrate golden California with two hybrid West Coast-Venetian necklaces!

I made this piece as a birthday gift for myself and I have loved wearing it. The “M” charm is matte vermeil (gold over sterling silver), which I purchased at a gem and jewelry show from a great vendor called Forever Silvers. That company features tons and tons of charms. Highly addictive, highly dangerous!

The necklace includes Venetian glass beads from a company that imports them directly from Italy, the Venetian Bead Shop. I’m a big fan. (They are getting to know me pretty well over there!) That same company also sold me some round Swarovski crystals I used in this necklace, along with some pretty gold seed beads. I have to say, beads and charms are like candy. Once you start consuming them and get a taste for them, you can never have enough….

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The expanse of gold-tone seed beads at both ends mimics gold chain, don’t you think?

And last, I included Miyuki Japanese seed beads in a fun shape that I picked up on a recent trip to Virginia. As I travel, I always seek out crafts supplies! I also added in a few gold-filled metal spacer beads that I love for dressing things up a little.

To string this piece, I used flexible bead wire by Soft Flex, a company based up in wine country, in Sonoma, CA. I enjoy working with the lightweight version of their wire, which has a great drape. I closed up both ends with crimp beads and used a gold-filled lobster clasp to finish it off.

Here’s one more piece I made that I’d like to share:

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This one also includes Venetian glass beads, Swarovski crystals and crystal pearls, and Soft Flex wire. The central focal bead, two round beads and two twist beads are all wrapped with the colored wire, which I then passed through the bead a second time. It’s a cool way of creating a little space and movement in the piece without having to insert any extra crimp beads to hold things in place. I like these rose and gold tones for both spring and fall. The central disc bead looks like it’s been drizzled with raspberry sauce. Yum… The vivid colors are cheerful and appetizing, yet completely calorie free!

Write in if you have any questions about techniques, or just to tell me what you think of these designs. Happy crafting, and more to follow. I have more jewelry to show you, and I’ll also try to offer an update about a table runner and small quilt I’m working on in the near future.

 

I brought back a bunch of photos to share from last month’s PIQF in Santa Clara, CA. Such a wide range of beautiful creations and award-winning quilts. It’s quite overwhelming as you walk through the displays. I captured images of some of my favorite pieces. Enjoy this taste of the show – in no particular order! Hats off to these terrific fabric artists.

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Quilts were on walls everywhere throughout the convention center.

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My friend Ellen came out for a visit last month. We’ve known each other since the age of 11…. we grew up together. I miss seeing her since she lives far away, in Chicago. In anticipation of her trip West, I made her a gift for her birthday: a necklace of green Murano glass beads strung on green Soft Flex wire.

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This style is called “illusion” because of the way the thin wire seems to disappear inbetween the beads. Often illusion necklaces use translucent wire or plastic fishing line. Then the beads truly “float.” In this piece, I liked the many shades of green, including the wire itself.

I used tiny 1 millimeter by 1 millimeter crimp beads to secure the beads in place. Each crimp required a micro-crimper. Some of these beads have even more gold than green, so I decided to use a gold-tone toggle as the clasp.

Green called to me for this project for a few reasons. First, I knew that Ellen wears green – I wouldn’t want to pick a color she hates. Second, it was a favorite color of a close mutual friend we both miss, Marion, who died a couple years ago. And what’s more, Ellen and I traveled together to Big Sur, down the Pacific coast, and saw a lot of very green beauty there in the cliffside hills. We hiked up the Ewoldsen Trail, getting an awesome view of the ocean.

The trail:

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The views:

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Back to quilts!

A while back, I started a red-white-and-blue quilt. In fact, I began working on two of them: one with a scrappy background, and one with blocks that all had the same pale blue on white background. All the blocks are big bow ties (simplified pattern, without Y seams) that lend a fun double arrow look.

Well, the baby who is the intended recipient has been born, and he’s a cutie! Little Augustine (“Augie”) will be able to cuddle up with these 1930s reproduction prints:

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I put a cute “quilting words” fabric on the back because Augie’s mom also likes to sew:

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Augie is just three weeks old, so I think this will be his view of the quilt for a while:

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After piecing the quilt and layering with a 80/20 cotton/poly blend batting, I free-motioned large meandering patterns in pastel variegated thread. Free-wheeling quilting lines are good for a baby’s small hands to trace, and the primary colored arrows are stimulating for little eyes. I hope he likes it!

Here’s a photo showing my scrappier blocks, as yet to be turned into anything. I do like this block arrangement, too:

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Memories of Capri

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Ever since I returned from Italy this summer, I’ve been inspired to create jewelry with Italian glass beads. I’ve been drawn into these beads, mesmerized by them. They are as beautiful as any modern art, in my opinion. They are also more durable and jewel-like than most non-precious materials out there. (My daughters have dropped these tough glass beads–and I admit I have too–without any damage.)

The highlight of my Italian journey was a short trip to Capri, the fabled isle that attracted everyone from Roman emperors to modern movie stars. I’m calling the necklace pictured here “Memories of Capri,” and here are a few images to whet your appetite for a trip to that Mediterranean paradise. The Blue Grotto… the Faraglioni (huge stone formations off the coast)… the views, oh the views of the Bay of Naples… and, mainly, the nearness of the ocean itself, a unique and deep blue.

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The beauty just goes on and on there. My stay was short, but no matter how long I looked, I’m sure I’d never tire of those views. The image above is a sphinx at the Axel Munthe home (now a museum) on the very top of Capri, in the town of Anacapri. That ancient stone is probably the world’s luckily statue. And unlike on the Pacific where I live, it’s not whipped by strong, exhausting winds. There’s a peace to the place that’s magical.

I chose some gorgeous authentic Murano glass beads from the Venetian Bead Shop to create my necklace. I began with a few dual-toned rounds and some deep sapphire blue squares and small rounds. I then began to think of making a longer piece–but not too heavy–using seed beads to connect my bigger items, and adding a handful of Swarovski crystals for variety, additional color, and sparkle, and just a few crystal blue pearls. The crystals also help to vary and balance the shapes here.

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I used a .14 Soft Flex silver “extreme” wire to make a very flexible and light piece. And last, I used a silver jump ring and a lobster clasp to finish it up, with some silver crimp beads sealing off the edges. I wore this necklace to my office without doubling it–and it was fashionably long. Flapper length. And that’s fitting. I believe it was in the 1910s and 1920s that vacationers started flocking to Capri, though it was a destination long before–and long after.

 

I am still making gradual progress on small quilts, but I confess that I’ve become distracted by…beads!

I returned earlier this month from a trip to Italy, where I found myself fascinated with the glass beads from Murano, an island off Venice. I stopped there very briefly and toured a glass maker. I even acquired some lovely necklaces… But I wanted to relive the experience back home with a few beautiful imports, trying my hand at creating jewelry combining large Venetian glass beads and tiny seed beads (also Murano glass). I like the mix of the dramatic and the delicate.

Here’s my first experiment, which was inspired by a design found on the website Venetian Bead Shop. I call it my Sea Earth Sky Bracelet:

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The big round bead reminds me of the Earth…. It contains some gold foil inside a bed of aqua; the gold is land, the aqua the sea. I really love the square beads surrounding it. The shape fascinates me. Plus they are fun to play with if you get bored. Just turn them over and around a few times, admiring all the shades of blue…

I also visited a local bead shop, Natural Expressions in Los Gatos, CA. That inspired me to create this Evil Eye Bracelet:

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This one I made using a handy bead design board:

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Very fun. And much quicker than my fabric art. I see more beads in my future!

Catching Up…

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I’ve been busy making progress on a handful of quilts but just haven’t had time to write about it! The first one is a small Hawaiian-themed quilt for my younger daughter’s bedroom wall. She helped piece the strips we used for these “Illinois road” blocks and she just loved the print, which features rainbows and Hawaiian flowers and “honu” (sea turtles). The sky blue is a batik, the only one here. I think that difference causes it to stand out, making it look like the sky on a sunny day with whispy clouds. I began to hand quilt this piece and haven’t quite finished, but every time I look at it, the bright and sweet colors cheer me up.

And I’ve carried on my “quilting in paradise” theme by layering a small quilt for my older daughter on our redwood deck. The joys of Northern California! This quilt has Valentines theme (the print fabric shows “sweet hearts” candies all over it).

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That piece is now bound and finished and sitting happily at the foot of her bed as decoration and an occasional lap quilt.

I’ve put my batik stars on hold temporarily while I work with some red, white, and blue fabric that I purchased almost 2 years ago. Really adorable small prints showcase the retro look of these reproduction 1930s and 1940s fabrics. I got most of these at my local quilt shop, The Granary. Fun! I’m still playing around with more fabrics. More soon…

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