Happy New Year, I’ve got a life to lead

•January 1, 2018 • Leave a Comment

So, it’s been an interesting year.

My girlfriend and I spent most of New Year’s Eve afternoon in our pajamas and dressing gowns. We had a wonderful lunch – savory oatmeal and chorizo scramble. She played games while I watched Bake-Off and attempted to make Australian bacon and cheese rolls. We each drank an enormous amount of coffee as per usual.

Last year, I wanted to set 2016 on fire while it was still breathing. People surprised me in 2017 – journalists, lawyers, park rangers, climate scientists, everyone who showed up at the Women’s March and the trans marches. We didn’t lay down and take any of this and, because of everything I said in paragraph 2, we’re not going to take it in 2018. I have a good life and I feel very, very sorry for anyone who tries to take it.

So, I’m walking into 2018 like 2017. I hope you are too.

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Vintage Chicago Spoon Ring

•December 31, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Generally, I get a lot more out of my fiber crafts — knitting, cross stitch, embroidery — than I do out of my jewelry and metal craft attempts. There’s something about a project I can start on the couch and then take on the train with me in the morning, but I also did get my start designing and beading jewelry, so I return to metal stamping and new jewelry crafts frequently, particularly when something that seems impossible to do at home catches my eye. This time around, it was spoon jewelry.

spoonie
Source

Designed for the 1933 World’s Fair, this particular spoon commemorated the construction of the Michigan Avenue Bridge, then referred to as the Michigan Boulevard Link. After the city ruled out building a tunnel underneath the Chicago River (…how?), they spent two years designing and constructing a bridge to unite the north and south sides of the city. When I lived in Lakeview East, I used to take the bus to work through Lincoln Park (and over the 10,000 plague bodies buried underneath) and over the bridge every day, past the Wrigley and London Guarantee buildings also featured in the design.

Bolt cutters
Hand file/needle files
Steel or aluminum ring mandrel
Rubber mallet
Bernzomatic butane micro torch
Butane
Firebrick or charcoal block
Jewelry/beading tweezers
2 small tumblers or bowls (one for water, one for pickling solution)
Pickling solution: white vinegar, sea salt, hydrogen peroxide
Baking soda
#0000 steel wool
Paper towels

A few years back, one of my aunts asked if there was a craft that I couldn’t specifically do. I wrote out a short list, which included “using a blow torch.” I still haven’t quite made it to that level, but — once I used the cutters to separate the bowl of the spoon and my files to smooth the rough edges — annealing the sterling silver handle in order to bend it around the ring mandrel required the use of a butane micro torch. It also required a block to fire it on, and a pair of tumblers nearby — one with water for quenching the heat after, one filled with pickling solution in order to aid the removal of fire scale.

The heat from the torch also ended up turning the silver black with oxidation. To aid with the removal from the detailed engraving, I used baking soda to lightly scrub it and the #0000 steel wool to remove it further. Altogether it worked to soften the metal enough to bend it with the rubber mallet and give the ring itself a gorgeous patina.

A bit shaky (and not quite round) in places but not bad for a first effort.

Favorite Videos: “Slay Ride” The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society

•December 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I may be a little biased, but every festive holiday mix should have a cheerful song about Herbert West stealing bodies from the local cemetery.

Trans Pride Coffee Sleeve

•December 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Another fun thing that comes out of many commissions — prototypes that can be re-purposed. Everyone has done a sweater that was too small for them or, in this case, a wristband that was too big. This particular wristband — the first one I knitted before the days-long intarsia adventure — was far too big on 34-year-old me let alone an 11-year-old boy. So, I weaved in the ends and turned it into a coffee sleeve.

Brilliant! And now I have measurements for future coffee sleeves.

Favorite Videos: Love Actually, “The Carol Singing Prime Minister”

•December 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I’m pretty flexible on most rituals and rites during this time of year, but Love Actually is one of those traditions they’ll have to pry from my cold dead hands.

Evolution of Ms. Moody’s intarsia skills…

•December 21, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Commissions are good. Extra cash is always a good thing, particularly during the holidays. And, occasionally, it forces you to use and improve on a skill where you may have been unpracticed to mediocre before. In my case, my friend Lindsay asked for four wristbands for her friend’s two children, with specifications on design that would involve using intarsia.

Intarsia — a knitting technique used to create patterns with multiple colors — has eluded me for a long time. Longtime readers may recall the Sherlock Holmes bag I attempted to knit (way back in 2011!) with a meerschaum pipe and a hypodermic needle on the front flap. Without doing any research whatsoever, I charged ahead with the front flap three different times and was baffled and appalled at the resulting holes and malformed shapes that emerged from my stockinette stitches. Eventually, rather than look up the relevant stitches in any of the books I had or, worse, fielding a call to my soon-to-be ex-mother in law at the time… I continued on with the main color in stockinette and used garter stitches for the pipe and needle.

Laugh now (and I certainly have since then), but I had a six-year-old boy on the train tell me that bag was beautiful!

In any event, my initial efforts with intarsia on this go around were equally as wrong-headed. I remembered to have separate “bobbins” for the design… but I also created bobbins for the main color as well, thinking this was what I needed to allow the wrist band to stretch.

Can you see what went wrong here? I couldn’t until the project was actually finished and I had what looked like a mass of doll hair at the back of what was supposed to be a wristband for an 11-year-old boy. Oh dear.

So, I gave it another shot, reducing the number of bobbins from 24 (yee, gods!) to 14, still a mix of yellow and pink loose bobbins as opposed to working with a main color and bobbins for each of the letters.

A smaller mistake than before but still a mistake and, like the first prototype, I figured out that mistake after the project was completed.

On to Round 3.

At last, it came down to a main color and nine bobbins — one for each letter. Much more neat, much easier to weave in loose ends.

Much better! With that nightmare out of the way, I was ready to move on to the other two wristbands that involved intarsia.

Another nice thing about finally working at this and learning how to do intarsia properly — it took me days to work through the “PANTASTIC” prototype. “METAL” and SKULLY were each finished in less than two hours.

Small detail — when I was out shopping for the winter holidays, I ended up in one of my favorite vintage shops who, it turns out, sells spikes and studs for jackets. Singles. In a bin like penny candy. I couldn’t resist the dark pyramid studs and they lent a great effect to the “METAL” design.

And there we are! Seven years after I started knitting, I’m always excited when I learn something new (or just new to me). As I’m writing this, I just received notice from the delivery service that these wristbands have arrived at my friend’s home.

Just in time for Solstice!

Treason’s Greetings

•December 21, 2017 • Leave a Comment

In spite of my intermittent presence, the holiday spirit is very much with me this Solstice as demonstrated here.

Pry off the back and you’ll find the borscht recipe.

 
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