My polymer journey – the beginning

I’ve been meaning to write this post for quite a while to share my new creative journey with you but it’s been hard to find the right words or perhaps the courage. Back in 2004 when I started this blog, it was mostly about sewing. The occasional knitting project also made an appearance but mostly it was about sharing my sewing journey. By then I’d been sewing for quite a few years so while I shared some mishaps and “learning lessons” (ahem!), I wasn’t posting pictures of crooked seams and such. But polymer clay is new to me. Or rather, I am new to polymer clay. I started working with it last summer, at the end of July. So my work still shows “beginner clumsy” and may not be entirely suitable for public viewing. Consider yourselves warned, hehe.

First beads

This is the first photographic evidence of my polymer clay work. It’s a bunch of graduated beads in Fimo, which is all that was available locally (and a very meager selection, too). It’s date-stamped August 20, 2015. I still have those beads in my memory box.

Color beads 1

I then switched to Kato polyclay and made a new set of yellow beads, enough for a necklace, two bracelets, and a set of earrings. At the same time that I was making them, I was also working on color beads to get a sense of what colors I could mix from the basic primaries. The colorful tiled rectangles are pivot tiles – they show how the basic colors shift with the addition of neighboring colors on the color wheel, white, gray, and black.

Color beads 2

The next part of the color bead project was to go around the color wheel and make gradients between neighboring colors. This is an excellent reference for mixing colors to match or coordinate with fabrics, for example.

Yellow collection 1

You’ve seen the above picture before. It shows the yellow jewelry set with a shawl I knitted and a silk scarf from my beloved scarf collection. I wore my beads a lot. There’s something about the tactile experience of polymer clay that works for me both in its raw state and even more so when it’s cured. I wanted more polymer jewelry and my next endeavor was a bangle bracelet.

Not just one, as you will see, nor was it a straightforward project. In the polymer clay community, when anyone asks about making bangle bracelets, the first suggestion is to use a Coke can as the form. I have skinny wrists. I can put on a bracelet formed on a Coke can and then spend the rest of the day with my fingers splayed O.J. Simpson style to keep it from falling off. Not cool. Also not practical at all. I tried using a Red Bull can but that was too small to go over my knuckles.

Bracelets 1

I’m not easily deterred, hehe, so I then figured out how to make a bracelet in sections that could be strung on elastic. That took a few tries because I was working out not just the process of making it (and keeping the stringing holes open throughout) but also how wide it should be and how to cover the scrap clay base with a pretty veneer. All the shades of mud you see here are scrap clay, not really meant to be seen under normal circumstances. It usually forms the guts of a piece but is covered all the way around with something pretty-colored. The purple bracelet is fairly heavy and large and totally clunky. The bright green one came next. It’s not perfect but it is wearable. It was also the first piece that I sanded – that was a revelation. Using this green bracelet, I formed an oval-shaped cylinder to serve as a temporary armature for baking future bracelets.

Bracelets 2

Then I saw some pictures of cuff bracelets. A cuff bracelet is sort of like a bangle bracelet with a cut out section. It doesn’t go all the way around. Ideally, it is oval-shaped to fit the wrist just so. The opening helps in putting it on and taking it off but should be small enough that the bracelet doesn’t just come off on its own. I had the perfect baking form for it so I decided to give it a try. I made a few prototypes, again testing different widths and thicknesses, sizes of the opening, and various processes to ensure the visible parts would be as close to flawless as possible.

Bracelets 3

I finally came up with a way to make a cuff bracelet that requires only one curing and the outer layer wraps around the top and bottom edges so the inside structure is never seen while the bracelet is being worn. I even made my own template for it to ensure consistent results. It was great progress and I like wearing the cuffs I made this way.

Bracelets 4

And then one day I finally figured out how to make bangle bracelets in the right size for me. It involved some scraped skin when my first attempt was just a smidge too small and I wasn’t taking no for an answer. Peeps, if you’re trying to put on a bracelet and it just won’t go over your knuckles, don’t force it. Learn from my pain, hehe. Anyway, I now have a whole process for this, from extruding the rounded “snake” and shaping the base on my new temporary armature to the third and final curing, and then sanding the whole piece smooth.

All this time I was working on the bracelets, I was also spending a lot of time playing with other things. Pendants and earrings, for example. Figuring out my favorite shapes (circles, thankyouverymuch) and sizes, how to attach jewelry findings, how to finish the backs of the pieces, etc. I was also trying different techniques to find out which ones I like and want to take further. This post is getting awfully long so I’ll wrap it up now and share the rest next time.

See you soon!

Me-Made-May, week 4 and wrap-up

Just a wee bit late but here we go. Week 4:

May 22

Monday: red denim skirt and sparkly silver rayon top, plus me-made red bracelets.

May 23

Tuesday: white denim skirt, red rayon top, and me-made bracelets, earrings, and necklace.

On Wednesday, I drove out early in the morning to see my husband who had been gone the previous four weeks. I have an ugly hotel mirror shot which I won’t post but I was wearing the black denim skirt and the black/gray/red rayon print top. The next day, I had planned to go back to taking pictures but after the second day of driving, all I wanted was to be with my husband. Pictures were just not a priority. We spent a glorious long weekend at the beach and then he had to go back to his school and I had to drive two days to get home. And then it was June.

Lessons learned:

  • I like the clothes I made and enjoy wearing them. They make me feel like me. This is a great thing.
  • I have a nice core wardrobe of summer casual clothes. It’s been close to a decade since I had that.
  • I like wearing jewelry I made. It doesn’t matter if no one knows I made it. I know and it’s a fabulous feeling.
  • I need a routine. I’ve always known I liked a routine but it finally dawned on me last week that I really need it to function best. It’s almost amazing just how much goes right out the window when I’m in transition, whether it’s moving from one country to another or simply traveling. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I suppose.
  • Daily pictures are good but they are not necessary. I wore my SWAP wardrobe for the whole month of May and have continued to wear it now in June. Nice comfortable clothes will get worn, pictures or no pictures.

Participating in Me-Made-May was fun. Thank you, Zoe, for organizing it. I am hoping to figure out a similar cool-weather wardrobe soon so that I am ready when fall comes.

See you soon!

Me-Made-May, week 3 roundup

Yay. three weeks down. It’s hard to take pictures every day. I mean, I have a tripod and a fabulous camera with a remote, and a decent photo spot on the patio so it’s not that. But sometimes it’s hard to fit it in. Anyway, on to what I’ve been wearing.

May 15

Sunday was a chilly rainy day. I wore my trusty black denim skirt with a mystery jersey top (M6355). I have the long sleeves rolled up to show off my me-made bracelets but if I had to spend more time outside in that weather, those sleeves would have come right back down. Me-made earrings as well (polymer clay, naturally).

May 16

On Monday, off-black denim skirt with the darker red rayon jersey top (Burda 6695), and me-made bracelets on both arms. Some days I experiment to see which bracelets wear or feel better during regular activities, and some days I just want to wear my bracelets. All of them, if I could.

May 17

On Tuesday, another cold day, I needed long sleeves again. Black denim skirt, dark red Sophia knit top (M6355), me-made bracelet and earrings. Not that you can see the earrings much in this picture, but I like them and they are comfortable to wear.

May 18

Seriously, what’s with the cold days? It’s May! This was on Wednesday, and I wore the black denim skirt with my mystery jersey top, me-made earrings and bracelets. This black skirt gets a lot of wear. I love it. It is super comfy and goes with just about everything.

No picture for Thursday. I was playing with polymer clay all day. Not sure what I wore other than no makeup and no accessories. I woke up with an idea for some earrings and pendants that I had to try right away. I’m not even sure I had breakfast that day.

May 20

Friday was back to the black denim skirt and light red rayon jersey top (Burda 6695), with me-made bracelets, necklace, and earrings.

May 21

And finally, on Saturday, I wore the black denim skirt with the red/black printed ITY poly top (Burda 6695), and me-made bracelets.

It’s been a good, productive week. A little bit cold, and I could do without the severe weather warnings, but otherwise no complaints. I’ve spent many happy hours in the clay studio – that’s a fancy name for the breakfast nook where my work desk resides. I keep wanting to share my clay stuff with you all but every time I start thinking about clay, I immediately want to work with it so writing takes a back seat, again and again. But this week I’ll have several days without access to clay which should make for good writing-about-clay time.

See you soon!

Me-Made-May, week 2 roundup

Second week in and I’ve already started repeating outfits. More on this later.

May 8

On Sunday, I wore the multicolored top that started my obsession with Burda 6695. I paired it with the off-black denim skirt. I have a hard time telling the difference between it and the black denim in pictures but in real life, the colors are quite different.

May 9

On Monday I wore my new red top with the black denim skirt. The top is the first piece in my Summer 6-PAC.  I accessorized with me-made bracelets and necklace (polymer clay, of course).

May 10

I had been busy sewing on Monday so that I had a new outfit to wear on Tuesday. This is the heathered red top and white denim skirt, both part of my Summer 6-PAC. Me-made bracelets again. I just love them.

May 11

Back to old (ha!) clothes on Wednesday – red denim skirt and black/white newsprint rayon jersey top. Same bracelets, three days in a row. I’d never know this if it weren’t for the pictures.

May 12

On Thursday, there was still red but less prominent. Off-black denim skirt and a mostly gray/black print top, and those bracelets. Seriously, I do have other bracelets.

May 13

Winding down the color for the weekend, hehe. On Friday I opted for the black denim skirt and silver metallic (sparkly!) top. As it turns out, I had paired the same pieces together just six days earlier. Maybe that says something about me.

And no picture for Saturday because I spent the day playing with polymer clay and I was totally in the zone. When I finally looked up, it was dark. But I did take note of what I wore: black denim skirt, red/black ITY poly top, black wool jersey cardigan, and the red me-made bracelets. It was a cool day and sometime in the afternoon I swapped the skirt for a pair of RTW black pants to keep me warm.

I’m happy to have clothes that I enjoy wearing. And even happier that they are made by me. I am starting to feel like it’s a lot of clothes though. I can’t quite explain it. I mean, it’s a SWAP plus two older and three brand-new pieces, so 16 pieces total. I enjoy having a variety of colors in tops. I’m not so sure about the skirts. I always reach for the black one first. It takes a conscious effort to pick the red or off-black one. So maybe I need three black skirts instead of black, off-black, and red. But I’m already wearing a uniform of sorts so do I want to eliminate the color element from the bottom half? I’ll have to think about it.

It would make getting dressed easier. Also, I was thinking that for winter, I could have a few black dresses and wear them with bright-colored cardigans or Viajante. Something to chew on.

In other news: I’ve been playing and claying and I will show you some polymer clay pieces next.

See you soon!

Summer 6-PAC wardrobe

The summer 6-PAC sew-along has started. People are coming up with all kinds of cool “stories” to make their wardrobe plans. I don’t have a cool story. But I do have the first three pieces finished.

Dark red top with skirtMay 10

I used my trusty patterns again – Burda 6695 for the tops and for the skirt, my favorite frankenpattern. All three fabrics are from Emmaonesock. The 11-oz. rayon/lycra jersey sews like a dream and feels great on the skin. I hope it wears and washes well, too, because I want these tops to last. The denim is the same stretch blend as the red and off-black skirts I made a few weeks ago.

Red white combo

Here are the three pieces all together. You can see that the reds are different. The darker one is called cadmium red, and the lighter one is called dark coral heather. Interestingly, mixing them up in polymer clay (Premo) calls for the same base: 7 parts cadmium red and 1 part fuchsia. For the darker color, the base is used as is. The lighter one is a 1:1 blend of the base with white. Colormixr tells me so.

Polymer clay to match

This morning I ordered some red sandals from Zappos. I hope they fit. And then I started working on coordinating jewelry for this red/white combination. The sheet above is made with a new-to-me technique called Sutton Slice. It’s fun to do. Now I need to figure out how to put it on a bracelet without demolishing the texture. The round pieces are still a WIP. The small ones are for earrings and the larger ones for pendants. I think. We’ll see how they turn out after the next baking.

And that’s all I have for now.

See you soon!

Me-Made-May, week 1 roundup

First seven days down and I’ve been wearing me-mades every day. And here’s photographic evidence:

May 1

The week started off cool, with temps in the 60’s. On Sunday I wore the black denim skirt from my recent SWAP, a red long-sleeved top (M6355) in Sophia double knit, an altered RTW scarf , and a me-made bracelet and earrings set.

May 2

Still cool on Monday so I swapped the colors. Red denim skirt from the SWAP, gray mystery knit top with long sleeves (M6355), same altered RTW scarf as the day before (this scarf has been getting a lot of wear in the last six months or so), and the same bracelet and earring set again.

May 3

On Tuesday it was warmer, but still cool enough that a cardigan was welcome. I wore the black denim skirt with the multicolor rayon jersey top (Burda 6695) and black wool jersey cardigan. All three pieces from the SWAP.

May 4

On Wednesday it was plenty warm and I wore the off-black denim skirt from the SWAP with an old RTW asymmetrical top. It was this top that inspired me to look for a pattern with cut-on cap sleeves when I was sewing the spring 6-PAC.

May 5

On Thursday, back to red. Red denim skirt and red/black ITY poly jersey top (Burda 6695) from the SWAP.

May 6

On Friday I was testing a new me-made bracelet and it doesn’t go with the reds. So I wore the black denim skirt and the silver metallic rayon jersey top (Burda 6695) from the SWAP. The bracelet turned out to be a step in the right direction in terms of sizing so there will be more bracelets soon.

May 7

For Saturday’s running around, the red denim skirt paired nicely with the dark gray rayon jersey top (Burda 6695) and a me-made bracelet with earrings.

Most of these clothes were from my recent SWAP, mostly because that’s pretty much all that’s wearable in my closet right now. I’m working on sewing up more pieces. I made a rich red rayon jersey top today and I’ll be wearing it soon. I also have a piece of white denim for a skirt that I plan to make tomorrow so there should be a bit more variety coming up.

In other news, I’ve been feeling an overwhelming urge to knit another Viajante. But I had a slight mishap with the business end of a clay blade a couple of days ago so one of my main knitting fingers is currently, er… on light duty, shall we say.

See you soon!

Me-Made-May pledge and epiphany

Over the last few years, I have enjoyed reading Me-Made-May and Self-Stitched-September posts on my favorite sewing blogs. I never joined because my wardrobe always felt inadequate somehow. But this year, I am ready. And so here is my pledge:

I, Alexandra, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’16. I endeavor to wear at least one me-made item each day for the duration of May 2016. I will take pictures daily, weather permitting, and post them weekly on my blog. I am hoping to identify any wardrobe holes and then fix them.

On to the epiphany. I’ve been playing with polymer clay. Especially making bracelets. I’ve made a few. Here are two examples:

Bracelets

The problem I have with these bracelets is that they are lovely up close and on their own. But when I wear them, the pattern nearly disappears. All that work, and you can’t even see it. I didn’t quite get it for a while. Then I thought, hmm, maybe I could just do a solid color. Ugh, can you say boring? But today, lookee here, I figured it out:

Bold pattern - bracelet and earring set

I need a bold pattern. No thin lines. No tiny flowers. No fine mokume gane. Bold colors. Bold pattern. Maybe circles, maybe not. Today I went with circles. And you can definitely see the pattern on this bracelet when I wear it.

May 1

I am super excited and already have ideas for other pieces. The black and white will likely be a part of most designs. The main color will change to coordinate with wardrobe pieces.

See you soon!

SWAP wardrobe finished

Or perhaps a better title would be “The Unintentional SWAP Wardrobe”. I didn’t start out sewing a SWAP (Sewing With A Plan). In fact, I started out without much of a plan at all. I just needed clothes. So I made some. And then some more. And then more still. Until I had more than enough to call it a SWAP.

SWAP 2016 - 1

This year, the rules (on Stitcher’s Guild) called for sewing coordinating pods. I was really short on tops so my pods are one bottom and two tops, plus more tops in the combo pack.

SWAP 2016 - 2

By some miracle, I hit upon the combination of a denim skirt with a short-sleeved top when I was sewing the 6-PAC. It was instant love and I started envisioning a closetful of colorful denim skirts, printed and solid-colored tops, and a few cardigans. So I had, well, if not a plan, at least a vision.

SWAP 2016 - 3

The combo pack is two garments that coordinate with both Pod 1 and Pod 2. Above and below you can see how this worked for my pieces.

SWAP 2016 - 4

The wildcards could be just about anything but had to follow the pod rules. I stuck with one bottom and two tops. The black skirt works with every top and the multicolor print top works with both of the other skirts. I’m not keen on combining the silver top with the other two skirts, but it works well with either cardigan. I think it would look great with a white denim skirt and together they may form the basis of the next 6-PAC.

SWAP 2016 - 5

For an unplanned SWAP (ahem!), this is quite a lovely collection, if I say so myself. I’m super excited! I haven’t been this productive in at least a decade, and the joy sewing has brought me in the last two months defies description. These clothes are very comfortable to wear and they are very me. I love them.

Happy sewing!

Mini wardrobe finished

Yay, I have clothes to wear! The mini wardrobe is finished. I suppose it counts as a Spring 6-PAC. Or rather, with two skirts, four tops, and a cardigan, it’s more like a 7-PAC. Anyway, here come the pictures and details:

Four tops with black skirt

The tops are all prints I ordered last year from Michael Levine but by the time they arrived, I was back to sewing solid colors. And so they waited patiently until the time was right. I had actually started with Jalie 3352, the dolman top pattern, because I wanted cut-on cap sleeves. But the neckline was just too plain for me and I decided I wanted some drape in that area. Enter Burda 6695 – exactly what I had in mind. It’s an easy pattern that takes just under 2 hours from flat fabric to finished garment. (Probably less if you’re not fiddly with your hems and such.)

Four tops with red skirt

I made only a few alterations to the pattern: shortened the back and lowered the back neckline to account for my erect posture and low neck base, and shortened the hem 1″ all the way around. I left the front neckline as it was because 1. I didn’t want to fiddle with the complex-looking piece, and 2. it’s going to drape anyway. Once I made the first top, I knew I had a winner so I just kept cutting and sewing.

The fabric that is mostly red is a poly/lycra ITY jersey. I actually made two tops using it, same pattern. It’s comfortable and feels nice, if a little bit swimwear like. The other three prints are rayon/lycra jersey. I don’t know what rock I’ve been living under that I never knew about this fabulous material. It’s awesome! I’ll be ordering and sewing up more.

Cardigan

The skirts are my own frankenpattern of BWOF 3/02 #125. I copied the shape of the part below the waist, then brought it in a bit at the waist using a curved ruler and some guessing. I used the existing darts in the back and left the front plain. The waist is finished with elastic. I was going for the same concept as Pamela’s Magic Pencil Skirt, only without her pattern and without any tapering at the hem.

The skirt fabrics are both denim. The black denim is a cotton/lycra blend from JoAnn’s. It’s very comfortable but it does seat out a bit after spending an hour or so in the car. I don’t mind it much; it was a test version that turned out very wearable. The red denim is a cotton/poly/lycra blend from EmmaOneSock and it’s awesome! It has excellent recovery so no seating out. I have ordered more.

Back views

For the cardigan, I wanted to use Simplicity 1945 view A but when I compared it to the top pattern, it was clear that the batwing sleeves were just much too big. So more frankenpatterning ensued: I took the BWOF 3/02 #125 for the back and most of the front, then merged the waterfall part of Simplicity 1945 into it. I think it worked out quite well. In the next iteration, I will bring the shoulder seams closer to the neck by a half inch or so, to keep the neckline from feeling too wide.

The fabric for the cardigan is a lightweight wool jersey from Elfriede’s Fine Fabrics in Boulder, CO. It feels like forever since I visited it. The jersey is perfect for this cardigan – just the right weight and warmth.

Well, this is all I can remember right now. I have a bunch of other fabrics in the queue, just waiting to join this mini wardrobe in the closet. I’m really loving all the prints and the comfy skirts so there will be more of them. I’m thinking about making some solid tops with patterned skirts to see if that works just as well. If not, I’ll go back to printed tops and solid skirts. We’ll see.

Happy sewing!

Checking in

I’m still here and sewing. Only “here” is no longer in Germany, but in Oklahoma. (For now, anyway. We had barely gotten settled into our new home when we got news about our next assignment, coming up in less than six months now.) When the movers packed up and crated my sewing studio early last December, I missed my machines dearly. And since I unpacked and set up the studio at the end of February, I’ve been giving them a lot of love.

Mini wardrobe

Above is a peek at my work in progress – a mini wardrobe that might blossom into a full SWAP because spring is in full swing here and summer just around the corner. On the right side is a black denim skirt, then three tops in colorful prints, and on the left you can see another print for a top, red denim for a skirt (which has become a reality between when I took the picture this afternoon and now when I’m typing this), and black wool jersey for a cardigan. I’m expecting a few more fabrics before the end of this week that will work well in this wardrobe.

I just wanted to check in briefly so you all don’t think I fell off the face of the planet. More soon.

Happy sewing!

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