Friday, April 24, 2015

Storage Stool Revamp - Part 1

Many, many, MANY years ago, my husband gave me the most wonderful birthday gift - a Horn sewing cabinet with a built in machine lifter. To say I was over the moon would be an understatement. At the time, I was doing a lot of sewing for the little people in our lives so it was wonderful to have a space where I could not only sew, but I could also quickly and easily stow away my machine and sewing projects out of little hands way. Over the years, the cabinet fell into a state of disrepair and we parted company but the little stool which came with it continues to serve me well.

Last week, I got a bee in my bonnet about that little stool. Whilst it's very compact and fits perfectly under my workdesk, visually, its 1980's brown laminate and brown fabric was sticking out like a sore thumb in my crisp black and white studio.

It suddenly seemed very out of place!

And whilst it's not in perfect condition, it's a very sturdy little stool that has a lift up lid with a storage compartment inside. It has a lot going for it..... just not the colour! So I thought this would be a piece worthy of updating.

Firstly, I needed some black and white upholstery fabric which I got for the bargain price of $6/metre at Spotlight. Now I was ready to get underway.

First thing to do was remove the cushion from the stool by removing the screws. I managed to undo most of them but had to enlist the help of my husband to get the last couple out.

He stuck around for a bit and removed the staples from the fabric for me too. I really appreciated that extra muscle!

There were dozens of them and some of them had snapped leaving part of them in the seat, so whatever could be pried out was pried out with pliers and those that couldn't be removed were hammered below the surface.

Next came measuring the fabric. And the easiest way to do this was to simply lay the padded cushion on top of the fabric, making sure that the pattern was straight and that there was enough overhang to staple onto the seat. No need to mark cutting lines; the geometric pattern made it really easy to cut straight!

To work out where the seams should be, I turned the fabric right side up and centred the cushion on top. Then I was able to pin the corners to the shape of the cushion.

Then, over to the sewing machine to stitch the seams.......

......before trimming away the excess.

After turning it right side out and fitting it on to the cushion, it was time to staple it into place.

I also bought some black canvas to staple to the underneath of the cushion to hide the raw edges.

Looking pretty good! The recovered seat is a great improvement.

In my next post, I'll be revamping the laminate stool. You'll be amazed at the transformation, so please check back to see the finished piece!

'Til next time.....

Monday, April 13, 2015

Lacey Black and White Resin Coaster

Since decorating my studio in black and white earlier this year, I've been on the lookout for a white crocheted doiley to turn into a resin coaster. In keeping with my theme, I wanted to embed the doiley in clear resin and then fill the back of the mould with black resin. But when I stumbled across a black doiley, I got so excited - this would add such an unexpected twist to the project!

Sadly, that black doiley was just a little bit too big for my coaster mould. I was disappointed to abandon the idea of a black-on-white coaster and continued my search for a smaller white doiley.

But last week, I came across a black die-cut pvc coaster and the idea was reborn! So instead of using a white doiley on black resin, I'm using a black doiley on white resin.... cool!

Here's how this project took shape:  

After mixing enough Easy Cast epoxy resin to cover the bottom of the mould, I let the resin sit on my bench for about 5 minutes before working with it.

This gives the bubbles a chance to disperse (one of the great benefits of using Easy Cast is its self-degassing nature!). Now it's time to fill the bottom of the mould.

I like to leave the first layer to cure overnight so I have a really firm surface to work on. Then I mix a second, smaller batch to embed the coaster in.  

After this second layer reaches gel stage, I colour a third batch of resin with white pigment......

.....and pour it over the clear resin to fill the back of the mould.

If you use a plastic mould, it will be a full 24 hours before you can remove the cast from the mould. But if you're using a silicone mould like I have, you'll be able to demould in half that time. This is a huge bonus if you're impatient like me and can't wait to see the result. Just keep in mind that the resin still needs up to 72 hours to fully cure.

Here's another look at the finished coaster:

What wonderful contrast! I am absolutely thrilled with how the coaster turned out - it will look fabulous on my desk!

'Til next time........

Thursday, March 26, 2015

How to Use Up Your Paper Stash - A Study in Black and White

One thing every cardmaker and scrapbooker has in common is the mountains of paper scraps we can't seem to part with. This black and white floral paper (Floriade 9-up) was left over from a cardmaking project from years ago but as a hoarder, I still had it in my stash. During my recent studio de-clutter,  the time had come to make a decision; "De-stash" or "Use it". It occurred to me that these images would look great as framed art for my studio so I chose "Use it" and suddenly, a new studio decor project was born. All I needed were some frames with a 10cm (4") opening.

I found a sleek, modern black and white frame and a pair of elegant silver and pearl frames at a local homewares shop that would suit my decor perfectly.

This is the simplest of projects: just slip out the printed paper template from the frame, place it on top of the image or photo you want to use and mark the four corners with a pencil.

Remove the template and trim the image with your preferred paper cutting system. For me, that's my trusty ruler and craft knife!

Place the image in the frame and you're done. (Tip: Place the template behind the image for safe keeping. Then it will be handy for when you want to change up your images if you tire of them).

Wow.... what impact the black and white imagery has! I just love the elegant simplicity. These particular images are no longer available but there are other floral images available from Dark Room Door which would work really well in this project.

So, this project used up one third of a sheet of paper.... it's not exactly stash busting stuff, but it is great to see some of it get used!

'Til next time......

Friday, March 20, 2015

M is for.......An easy Monogrammed Mirror!

In recent weeks, I've been giving my studio a complete over haul: declutter, destash, relocate and reorganise. It was long overdue - it's been five years since I moved into it and whilst this is not the first reorganisation it's gone through, it is by far the biggest and the most ruthless I have been in deciding what stays and what goes.

And now that all that hard work is done, it's time to inject my style and personality into the studio. This chic black and white monogram mirror has such a timeless and elegant feel. And it's easy to do too - you can complete it in less than two hours!

For this project, all the products you need (except the adhesive) are available at Spotlight:
  • black acrylic paint
  • paint palette
  • wide, stiff bristled brush
  • wooden letter
  • Bella! bling self-adhesive borderlines
  • a resin-framed mirror (because it's lightweight for hanging)
  • Beacon Glass, Metal and More adhesive (check the hardware store for a suitable adhesive)

Before you paint the front of the letter, paint all the sides, making sure you get into all the corners. Allow that to dry and then paint the front of the letter.

I only needed one coat of paint but if yours is looking a little patchy, allow the first coat to dry and apply a second coat.

Check that the unpainted back isn't showing. Once the letter has dried, place the letter on the mirror to see how it looks. I'm so glad I did this because the reflection showed the unpainted back. No problems...... just paint all around the edge on the back of the letter too.

Now it's time to go to town with the bling. Before you remove any of the borders from the plastic carrier, cut the carrier into strips and begin experimenting with the placement of the strips. Once you're happy with the look, peel the carrier away and position the border on the letter.

Apply a thin coat of adhesive to the back of the letter. Don't place it too closely to the edge or it will ooze out onto the mirror and be visible from the front. Place the letter on the mirror and leave overnight to dry. If you do have a little bit showing, use a toothpick to scoop away the excess whilst it's still wet and then clean up the residue with a cotton bud (Q-tip) dipped in acetone or methylated spirits. Hang with 3M Command strips.

I love all the contrasts in this piece: the bling against the black letter; the black letter against the mirror; and the mirror against the white resin frame - it all just works!

And now I have a personalised decorator piece hanging proudly on the wall alongside my computer.

Decorator pieces don't need to be substantial to have impact. This one just ties the other elements on my desk together making it a much more inviting place to work.

'Til next time....

Friday, February 27, 2015

Jewellery Maker's Basic Tool Kit

If you're new to jewellery making, it's easy to feel intimidated by the array of tools available. It can be a daunting feeling trying to work out which tools you need and what are they all used for. After all, you've never made jewellery before! But there's no need to buy every tool available - you only need to make a small investment to get started and then you can add to it as you go along. Here's my selection of basic tools you'll need as you start out on your jewellery making journey.

Chain nose pliers

This is my number one "must have" pair of pliers in your tool kit. They have a flat surface on the inner side of each jaw giving you good purchase when you grip things with them. Look for pliers that have a fine tapered point so that you can get into tight spots easily. They should also have a spring mechanism to minimise the amount of effort you need to exert when you use them and they should fit your hand size - i.e. not too large and not too small.

Round nose pliers

Round nose pliers are my go-to tool for making loops - these are indespensable when working with eye pins and head pins. They have two round jaws which taper from the base to the tip. Once again, you want to look for comfort in the grip and a spring mechanism to minimise fatigue when you use them for extended periods of time. I also like my pliers to have only a small gap between the base of the two jaws. If the gap is too large, you will find it difficult to grip the wire.

Flat Nose Pliers
Not everyone agrees that flat nose pliers need to be included in the basic jewelry making tool kit but I find them essential for making a sharp bend prior to forming loops. Flat nose pliers have two broad, flat jaws designed for gripping larger surfaces. Look for pliers with a well defined edge on the jaws.

Flush Cutters, Wire Cutters, Side Cutters and Nippers
You'll use cutters all the time to trim away excess wire and to cut stringing materials to length and there is an array of different types of cutters to choose from. But I prefer flush cutters because they cut the wire with one flush side (desirable) and one pointed side, whereas regular cutters leave a  bevel (point) on both sides. Look for flush cutters with a tapered point so you can nip in difficult to reach places. A spring mechanism is essental to give you more control and to minimise hand strain. A point to note about cutters is that they are NOT designed to be used with memory wire. Cutting memory wire with your wire cutters will permanently damage the cutting edge of the blades. Use memory wire shears if you intend to work with memory wire.

Beading Mat
This useful mat provides a cushioned surface to work on and prevents beads from rolling around your work space or onto the floor. Select one in a light shade for general use and one in a dark shade for working with light coloured beads - it's much easier on the eyes!

As you grow in skill and want to move on to different jewellery making techniques, like most of us, you will probably expand your collection to include more specialised tools but this basic set will still be your most-used tools.

Just remember, that your work will only ever be as good as the tools you use. Invest wisely in the basic tools and they will last you for years, but there is no need to spend a small fortune - there are many well-priced tools on the market that will do a perfectly good job.

Happy jewellery-making!

'Til next time.........

Friday, February 6, 2015

Tool Review - Xuron 4 in 1 Crimper Tool

I've been teaching jewellery-making techniques for many years now and one of the things students find most difficult to accomplish is well-formed, secure crimps. The crimping technique takes practice to perfect but once you've got the knack, your jewellery will be strong and will be able to withstand the tug test.

Whilst at CHA in January, I came across Xuron who manufacturer jewellery-making tools and they were were kind enough to give me a pair of their crimping pliers to test out.

Now this is not just an ordinary crimping tool: Xuron's 4 in 1 Crimper Tool crimps 1mm, 2mm and 3mm crimp tubes and in addition, it is also has a chain nose tip to get into very tight spaces.

So let's test it out and see how well it performs.

The first thing you'll notice is that the crimping station (the notch closest to the handle) is shaped like a "V". This "V" is the feature that sets the 4 in 1 Crimper Tool apart from standard crimping pliers.

To use the tool, string a crimp tube onto a length of beading wire and then thread the end back through the tube, forming a loop. You can see in the photo below that the beading wire wants to cross over itself inside the tube. This is a definite "No-No"!

 Separate those wires out so that they sit flat alongside each other.

Now that the wires are flat, place the crimp tube in the crimping station.....

and squeeze the handles firmly to press the notch into the centre of the tube. Make sure that one wire sits on either side of the channel as you form it.

It should look like this, with one wire in each channel.

Remove the crimp tube from the crimping station, hold the crimp tube and give each of the wires a tug to make sure your crimp is secure. If not, check that you're using the right size crimp tube for the diameter of the beading wire you've chosen.

Place the tube into the folding station corresponding to the size of your crimp tube - I used a 2mm crimp tube so I'm using the second notch from the top. Position it so that the bottom of the "V" is closest to the handles and squeeze to fold the wings of the crimp in.

And this is what it should look like.

If you wish, you can flatten the crimp further for extra security by placing it into the chain nose tip of the crimper and squeeze a little more, but this step is optional!

So, what's the verdict?

I really like this tool! It will make crimping a lot easier for beginners and more experienced jewellery-makers alike. Because the notching station produces a pronounced "V", the crimp tube doesn't roll around when placed in the folding station as is prone to happen in standard crimping tools, so it is easy to create a perfectly formed, even crimp.   

I mentioned that this tool also has a chain nose plier tip. Being such a fine tip, it's ideal for getting into tight spaces, adding to the tool's versatility. The bonus is that it also reduces the number of tools you need to have on hand to complete a project.

I give the Xuron 4 in 1 Crimper tool the thumbs up!

Xuron tools are made in the US and the good news for Aussie jewellery-makers is that this tool is available in Australia from Jewellers Supplies.

'Til next time......


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