Category Archives: polymer clay

New year, new direction?

I hope you are all off to a good start in this new year, sewing up the stash and thinking up cool new things to make.

Here we are just two weeks into January and I’m in a completely different space creatively than back in December. I had been thinking about sewing a wardrobe of separates, as part of the annual SWAP contest on Stitcher’s Guild. But this month, I started a new job that comes with a uniform requirement – a dark gray jacket. Scrub jacket, to be clear, so it’s not like I can just sew up some of my beatiful gray wools and call it good.

Color wheel

I’ve decided that if I have to wear a dark neutral cut-as-unisex jacket, everything else should be bright colored and feminine. So I’ll be wearing, and making, bright colored dresses with a matching scarf and bracelet. I’ll be working with the colors above with the aim of creating a capsule of two dresses (one long-sleeved and one sleeveless), one or two scarves, and a couple of bracelets, in each color family. Because the jacket is fairly dark, the dress colors will mostly be on the¬†lighter end of the spectrum for contrast. This should also be a good time to experiment with various trim ideas and color-blocking.

The sewing plan then is to work with a couple of TNT dress patterns all year and refine my preferences in terms of fabrics, trims, and style details. On the polymer front, I’m planning to make bracelets to go with the dresses, and because I want to perfect the process, I’m going to make a new bracelet¬†every two weeks.

I’ll be back soon with a finished knitting project. See you then!

Red wool top with brooch

Before I made the teal jeans, I was still on the red kick from earlier this year. And I made this red top. It was the first piece of my winter 6-PAC for which I never made a real plan. I vaguely remember thinking about three tops and three skirts, but this red top is as far as I got before switching gears to sewing jeans.

Red wool top

Lately I’ve been noticing trim and piping and similar details on my inspiration garments. And I have equally been noticing their very obvious absence in my own closet. The red top was my first step towards remedying this. The pattern is my TNT M6355 again and the fabric is a fabulous wool doubleknit from Michael’s Fabrics (years ago) that sews like a dream. I used black foldover elastic for the sleeve hems and neckline. It looked pretty “trimmy” already compared to my usual creations but when I put it on, it seemed to want more. I played with one of my samples, and I think small black-trimmed pockets would have been perfect, you know, Chanel-style. Except, this is not a jacket, but a pullover top. So no pockets, thank you. Instead, I thought, how about a brooch?

Red wool top - closeup

And so I made one with polymer clay. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted but I knew it should be mostly black. So I made the dome and then fairly randomly poked it with a small stylus. It was meant to be a sample to try the back-fill technique so I wasn’t going for any particular pattern. After curing, I back-filled the holes with white polymer, and cured again. After sanding, the surface is smooth and solid. I really like it. And it adds the touch of black that the red top needed.

Skirt fabrics

Above are the three fabrics for skirts. I figure since these fabrics are the outfit star kind, they can be worn with solid-colored turtlenecks all winter. All three are from Marcy Tilton. Only a yard of each, enough for a skirt. They’ve been sitting on the shelf, patiently waiting for me to realize once again that I can have a fitted top or a dartless one, but that fitted and dartless is really not in the cards for my body shape. Well, they’re up next, hehe.

Happy sewing!

My polymer journey – the beginning (part 2)

In the previous post, I showed you the first beads I ever made, my color reference beads and pivot tiles, and the many attempts at bracelets that finally led to something wearable. Today I’ll show you a bunch of other things that I worked on in between figuring out the bracelets.

Playing with color mixing

We’ll start back in Germany. In January I bought this beautiful yarn in my favorite yarn store, Strickliesel in Kaiserslautern. Those amazing colors totally inspired me to make beads for coordinating bracelets. It was a good exercise in using the color reference beads I’d made earlier.

Playing with Cabezels

Fast forward to March, now in Oklahoma. I ordered some CaBezels, made a basic lace cane, and proceeded to test them together. In the picture above they are not yet cured – they’re sitting on a tile, ready to go in the oven. They turned out quite nice except that the raw white-white cured to an off-white, which was a big disappointment.

Beads from Judy Belcher's tutorial

The next project was following Judy Belcher’s graduated lentil bead tutorial. In it, you’re supposed to make multiple canes using the same set of colors so they coordinate nicely. I don’t know if there’s a typo in the tutorial or if it’s just me not used to working with tiny pieces, but I got through making the first couple of canes and then I was out of clay. Hmm. Whatevs. I used what I had and made these beads. I was pretty proud of how they turned out even though they’re not exactly my style.

Polymer school

And then I found Polymer School. It’s a Czech program that basically promises to take you from new-to-polymer beginner to proficient jewelry maker. It took a few several emails and phone calls to work out the arrangements and then I was in. And the program is everything they promise and more. I love it. I’m still working my way through it. The picture above shows my first pieces, from the free intro video lesson. It was eye-opening for me to actually watch someone work the clay from package to finished, at real-time speed, and narrating every step of the way. The donut shape is the piece demonstrated in the video; I made the other shapes with leftover cane slices just for fun. This was my first project using Premo and I absolutely loved that the white stayed white after curing. It’s my new favorite.

Mokume gane

Here I was working with mokume gane – a fun technique that isn’t quite my style but worth learning anyway. I was mostly focused on the cuff bracelet and then used the leftovers to make the pendant and earring pieces and the beads. I’m still not entirely sure what I’m supposed to do with all the cane and veneers that I make, and I always make too much because I worry about not having enough. I think this is one of those things that take practice to figure out.

Happiness in a box

If you’ve ever wondered what happiness in a box looks like, wonder no more for you are looking at it. It’s a bunch of fabulous stamps, a silkscreen, a cabochon mold, samplers of metallic paints and glitter, and resin. (Obviously, you’re not seeing these things in the box but on my work tile, but they were in a box when the mailman handed it to me.) They will make for countless hours of joyful creating.

Happiness testing

This is what it looked like when I started playing with it. I was inspired by a project in one of my Fimo booklets – you can see the original in the upper left-hand corner.

Red white necklaces

Around this same time I sewed up a white skirt and two red tops, and I was looking to make some jewelry to wear with them. I didn’t have anything specific in mind; I was just playing and looking at what happens when I cut sheets of polymer and put them back together differently (kind of like quilting, but not exactly). And when I got something I liked, I cut a circle out of it. Or several circles whenever there was enough for more than one.

Yellow black pieces

A couple of days later, I woke up with a cool idea I was itching to try: red and white, circles, flat and domed, just play and see what happens. Well, what happened was that when I sat down to work, my muse had a different idea and I ended up combining yellow, white, and black to make the pieces above. Apparently, I needed to get that out of my system before I could go back to the originally-intended red and white.

Red white circle study

This stuff. Red and white circles. Different sizes, some flat, some domed, not sure where I’m going with it. I have a sense that was just the beginning.

Black white

Another project was testing Fimo Professional. I’m not sure if it’s just repackaged Fimo Classic or if they changed anything about the formula. I made color reference beads – gradients around the color wheel, and then just played with black and white. I thought the fuzzy effect was really neat. I found this brand rather crumbly but the colors are beautiful and the clay handles well.

Red white vacation jewelry

After a week of testing the Fimo and some interesting ideas that mostly didn’t pan out, I needed a break so it was back to Premo and simple things. I made two sets of jewelry just in time to wear on a mini-vacation over Memorial Day weekend. They are fun to wear. The top set is silkcreened and the bottom set is made with a technique called hidden magic.

Blue jewelry set

Next came this fun cane in black, white, and one color (Peacock Pearl in this case). Someone had posted a picture in one of my clay groups with a link to the YouTube video tutorial, I watched it and decided to give it a try. Making canes takes a lot of practice. Mine are still far from great but I thought this one turned quite pretty anyway. Also, notice I finally figured out how to put my name on pictures (yay!). I think I’ll be doing that from now on.

First brooch

This brooch is my take on one of the assignments in Polymer School. The color combination and dots idea came to me one night as I was going to sleep on our beach mini-vacation. I hope the green looks vivid on your screen – it really is in real life. It is such a happy brooch. It makes me smile every time I see it. Well, a picture of it these days because when my in-laws were visiting last week, my mother-in-law claimed it as soon as she set eyes on it. I was so tickled that she liked it that much.

Brooch and bracelets

She walked away with two brooches because I made her this one to go with her new wardrobe additions. She picked the colors and sat and chatted with me while I worked. It was fun to have company and also to be able to show her the possibilities and have her make choices on the spot. The coordinating bracelets are strung on an elastic cord to make them easy to put on and take off.

And that brings us to a close today. I have some fabrics washed and ready to cut and a knitting WIP that I’ll be sharing next time.

See you soon!

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!

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 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!

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