Monday, July 27, 2015

Mould Making Do's and Don'ts

Putting your craft skills to work is a great way to add one-of-a-kind personal touches to any special occasion. In our household, we're busy preparing for a wedding and being a crafty pair, my daughter and I decided to incorporate some handmade details to add that extra pizazz to her special day.

One of the projects we're tackling is the bonbonnieres. Hers will feature a handmade polymer clay tag with a sentiment on it. It's a big undertaking to make 100 so to speed things up, we made a mould from silicone rubber.

But before we get into making the mould, we created a master tag by following Marie Segal's tutorial from Art from my Heart. Marie suggests looking in the Mexican aisle for the alphabet noodles she uses to create her sentiments. In Australia, I found them in the Italian aisle. But no matter where you are in the world, look for something like San Remo's Soup Pasta.

Begin by conditioning the clay and then place it between the wooden stir sticks and roll it out.
use paddle pop sticks to roll out the clay
Use two sets of two wooden stir sticks taped together as a thickness guide for rolling the clay.

To create the tag, we used an oval cookie cutter to cut out the clay.
Use a cookie cutter to cut the shape
Press the cookie cutter into the clay

The sentiment is created by pressing the alphabet pasta onto the clay oval. Whilst we wanted the sentiment to be raised, the letters still needed to be evenly pressed into the surface of the clay so for a depth guide, we replaced the stack of stir sticks with a single stir stick plus a bamboo skewer on each side of the oval. Once the letters are in position it's time for baking. Just follow your clay manufacturer's instructions.
evenly press alphabet noodles into clay
Place the alphabet noodles into position and press them into the

Once cooled, it was over to me to make the mould. You can use silicone putty to make the mould as Marie did, but for this project, a mould made from silicone rubber will make a better, more flexible mould. I've used a shallow plastic lid that is a little larger all around than the master tag. It needs to be at least 6mm (1/4") deeper than the master too. I didn't use any adhesive to hold the tag in place but you could use some double sided tape on the bottom edges if your were concerned about the silicone seeping underneath - but don't tape it into position yet.
create a mould from a plastic lid

Now you're ready to prepare the silicone. To work out how much you need, fill the lid with water and pour it into a measuring cup/jug. Make sure to thorougly dry the lid again and then position the tag in the centre of the lid. Measure and mix the silicone according to the package directions.

Pour the silicone into the lid in one spot, allowing it to spill over the oval tag until there is at least a 6mm (1/4") thickness of silicone over the top of the tag. Pouring in one spot helps eliminate air pockets from forming. Set the mould aside to cure.
create mould by pouring silicone over item

Once cured, ease the mould out of the lid.......
pull silicone mould from the lid

.....and then remove the master from the mould.
master tag alongside silicone mould

VoilĂ ! Now we have a mould ready to create the 100 tags needed for the bonbonnieres.

You can see it's a pretty straight forward process to make your own simple mould but it didn't go completely to plan for us. You'll notice the title of this post is "Mould Making Do's and Don'ts". So now it's time to show you what not to do.

The photo below shows the first master tag we made. We made sure to spell the words backwards like you would on a stamp.
text reading backwards

And then we proceeded to make the mould and remove it from the lid. Can you see the problem yet?
backwards tag and mould

Here's what happens when you cast from this mould.
tag with reverse writing
Everything is backwards!

So you can see that even experts make mistakes!

Don't forget to stop by again later in the week to see how we fared with the casting of the tags.

'Til next time.....

Friday, July 24, 2015

Take a Virtual Tour Through Mill Lane Studio

Are you like me, always looking for new or better ways to store your craft supplies? Isn't it  interesting to peek into the studios of other creatives to see how they organise their supplies? It's fun to see how they decorate their space and see what storage systems work for them - after all, organising is a neverending task. Don't you love it when you glean a little storage or organisation tip that might help in your own crafting area?
The BEST Craft Organizer system is excellent for storing beads

Today, I invite you into my studio so you can learn some of the little tips that keep all my supplies organised. Cut Out + Keep take you on a virtual tour of my workspace whilst I talk about the trick that makes my studio look clutter free and how I store my supplies to keep them under control. I can tell you it doesn't always look so tidy but it does function well as both a studio and a classroom. I hope you'll find some helpful tips for keeping things in order in your craft space. But if nothing else, enjoy the pretty eye candy in my studio. I hope you find it inspiring!

I would love to hear about your storage and organisation ideas too. Please leave your comments below or better still, show us a picture of your work space.

Til next time....

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Baroque Pearl Earring Remake

I always find doing jewellery repairs an interesting challenge - you can learn so much about jewellery construction by studying the way the piece has been put together. Many of the costume jewellery pieces I've repaired over the years are constructed using different methods to those we regularly use as jewellery makers today and I find I learn valuable techniques to add to my repertoire by studying the way a piece has been constructed. The baroque pearl earrings on my desk today are a really good example so I want to share with you the step-by-step reconstruction of them. My customer received them as a gift from her mother so they have sentimental value to her but after years of wear, the fine gauge wire that they're constructed with has become kinked, making the earrings unattractive. So a remake is in order - my brief is to try to recreate the original design if possible.

The earrings have an unusual construction method: one continuous length of wire runs through the pearl and then becomes the earring wire. Another uncommon design feature of these earrings is that the pear-shaped pearl sits horizontally rather than vertically in the design. It's quite a clever construction method however the challenge will not be in the construction, but rather finding a suitable wire that won't kink quite so easily and isn't so thick that it requires the holes in the pearls to be drilled out.

The original wire is dead soft and easy to manipulate but that's what has lead to the kinking so I've chosen Beadalon's 22g Stainless Steel Artistic Wire. Stainless Steel wire is less malleable than regular Artistic Wire and it has more spring it it so it should hold it's shape better but still be pliable enough to work. It is also thin enough to fit through the existing bead holes.

So let's get started.

1. I've cut a 20cm length to work with and threaded one of the pearls onto it, leaving a 3cm tail.

2. To make the loop that the earring wire sits in we're going to create a wire wrapped loop, so bend the wire above the pearl at a 90° angle.

3. Create a loop with round nose pliers at the bend. You can move the pearl out of the way to do this.

4. Wrap the tail twice around the neck of the wire and trim away the excess. I use old flush cutters for this rather than my good ones because stainless steel wire can damage the blades.

5. Leave a small gap between the pearl and the wire wrapping (you'll need this space for the following step) and bend the wire where it exits the other end of the pearl. Bring it back towards the wire wrapping. You want the wire to sit firmly against the side of the bead but you need a little slackness for step 8.

6. Wrap the wire once around the base of the wire wrapped neck.

7. Now bring the wire back around the other side of the pearl so that the pearl is cradled on each side by wire.

8. Insert the tail through the first loop.....

8a ...gently easing it through the loop so you don't create any kinks.

9. Thread the tail through the second loop cradling the pearl so that the wire cradle sits firmly against the pearl.

10. Use flat nose pliers to bend the loop upwards just above the wire wrapping - this will be the loop to hook the earring wire through. (Sorry, forgot to photograph this step).

11. Form the remaining wire into a round earring shape the width of the pearl. Use flat nose pliers to bend the wire at a 45° angle where it meets the loop and then trim the tail to approximately 5mm.

12. Use a cup bur to smooth the end of the wire. Make the second earring to match.

And here's the remake.

Time will tell if the Stainless Steel wire proves to be a permanent solution or a temporary one but for the time being, my customer is happy that she can wear her baroque pearl earrings again!

'Til next time......

Monday, June 1, 2015

What is that Finding?

It's time for another instalment in the What is that Finding? series.

At first glance, this little finding, with its round cup at one end and tag with a hole at the other, looks rather similar to a calotte (aka clam shell or bead tip). Like a calotte, this finding is designed to encase the stringing material ready for attachment to a clasp. But because it's hinged on the side rather than on the end, it's able to accommodate a different kind of stringing material. Can you guess what that stringing material might be?

Let me give you a hint. It's a type of chain.

If you've guessed ball chain then you're spot on. This little finding is called a ball chain end or a ball chain crimp end.

If you've worked with ball chain before, you're probably more familiar with the ball chain connector that has a slit at each end for the last link of ball chain to sit in.

A ball chain connector eliminates the need for a clasp but it only works for a single strand of chain.

The beauty of using a ball chain end is that it allows you to include it in a multistrand design. As you can see, ball chain ends come in a range of sizes to fit different sized ball chain.

If you open the ball chain end, you will notice that the hinge is on the side, rather than the end. This allows you to place the last ball of the chain in the bottom of the cup......

and then you simply close the top half of the cup on it.

Insert a jump ring through the hole on the end and the ball chain is ready to be included in your design.

Ball chain ends make attaching ball chain a breeze and I think you'll find they give you a very secure and professional finish to your jewellery.

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

Monday, May 25, 2015

Spool Tamers...... I Don't Know How I Ever Managed Without Them!

Have you ever removed the end of a wire spool and had it go BOING on you?
Don't you hate it when that happens!

Well, Beadalon have come up with a clever little accessory called a Spool Tamer that will put an end to your unravelling spools. It's simple to use and works really well!

This little gadget will make your springing spool struggles a thing of the past, not only with your wire spools, but also beading elastic, beading thread and beading wire.

A couple of the clever features of Spool Tamers are that they are elasticized for easy placement around the spool and they are also adjustable so they can be resized to fit most size spools.

Let's take a look at one in action. Begin by removing the plastic cuff from the spool, or unhook the end of your stringing material from the notch - take care that the spool doesn't completely unravel, especially if it is wire.

Thread the stringing material through the hole in the adjustable plastic buckle, from the inside.

Stretch the elasticized band over the spool so it sits against the wire. Adjust the ends so that it's not too tight and not too loose. Your spool is now tamed and ready to use!

To dispense, hold the tab whilst pulling the stringing material.

If you've dispensed too much, you can easily rewind it. Hold the spool so that the front is facing upwards, grip the tab and rotate it clockwise around the spool. Make sure you leave a small tail for next time.

This is one of those "I don't know how I ever managed without it!" products. After using this one, I immediately went out and bought a packet and I'm sure it won't be the last packet I buy. It really has tamed my wire!

'Til next time.....

Monday, May 18, 2015

When is a Crimp Tube More than Just a Crimp Tube?

Q. When is a crimp tube more than just a crimp tube?

A. When it's a Beadalon Groovy Tube!

So, what's a Beadalon Groovy Tube, I hear you ask? Well, it's a crimp tube with grooves in the side that slightly spiral around the tube at an angle.
crimp tubes with grooves

The grooves catch the light and create more sparkle than regular crimp tubes!

Beadalon recently gave me some to play with, along with some .024" wire so I'm going to share with you the Beadalon method of crimping.

I've blogged about how to crimp previously but this method might make it easier for you if you are struggling with it. Crimping is usually a 2-step process, but the Beadalon method is a 3-step process, with an additional step at the beginning. It's this first step that just might make your crimping nightmares go away!

Before we begin, take a look at the profile of your crimping tool. Notice the oval shaped hole at the tip?
oval hole in crimping pliers

This oval shaped slot is actually used in the first step of the crimping process. It shapes the round crimp tube into an oval prior to the actual crimping step. Who knew!

So let's take a look at the Beadalong 3-step crimping process. To start, string a Groovy Tube onto the beading wire, slip on a wire guardian and then thread the wire back through the Groovy Tube. Slide the tube up to the wire guardian, making sure the wires are sitting flat alongside each other rather than crossing over inside the crimp.
String crimp and wire guardian

Now we're ready to crimp. The photo below shows the order we'll be using the notches in.
Crimp tubes in this order

Step 1: Place the crimp inside the oval shaped hole at the tip of the pliers and squeeze the crimp to compress it into an oval shape.
place crimp in oval hole
oval shaped crimp tube

Step 2: Place the Groovy Tube into the hole with the notch in it. If your crimping pliers have three holes, you'll be using the middle one which is sized for 2mm crimps. Make sure the wires haven't crossed over each other and squeeze gently to form the two wings that the wires sit in.
create indentation in crimp tube

At this point, I like to check that the wires are securely encased, so give each one a good tug separately. If they're not secure, place the crimp back in the notched hole and squeeze more firmly.

Step 3: Return the Groovy Tube to the first hole (the one closest to the tip), turning the tube on its side, with the indentation facing towards the hinge of the pliers, and squeeze to bring the two wings together in the centre.
flatten crimp tube wings

And you're done!

There is definitely a little more sparkle in a Groovy Tube compared to a regular crimp tube.
completed crimp

But the thing I noticed most was that because of the grooves, the walls have a little bit of extra thickness and seem to have more substance than ordinary crimp tubes. That should make it a stronger crimp!

So if you've been struggling with the crimping technique, give this method a go. Hopefully, the extra step will make all the difference!

'Til next time......


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