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Thursday, 19 May 2011

Sterling work

I seem to like using the word 'awesome' with alarming regularity at the moment. This is slightly disconcerting as it's a word that I've always associated with American teenagers, or over-enthusiastic presenters. Much like 'psyched' (as in: "I'm psyched! Are you psyched?!"). In any case, awesome is really the only way to describe a new material which landed in my life last week: Silver clay.

You shape it, you let it dry, you file it, you fire it and voila it turns into solid silver! Miraculous surely? Well almost. Apparently it is made up of silver particles together with an organic clay binder. The binder gives the material it's flexibility, before being burned off during the firing process (a little shrinkage occurs) and leaving behind the solid silver. The lovely E was so kind as to give me a silver clay workshop with the London Jewellery School for my Birthday, and last Wednesday it was time.

Spurred on by biscuits and tea from their fancy machine, we learned how to properly prepare surfaces for the clay and the fact that you only have about *5 minutes* before the clay starts to dry and harden. That did slightly scupper come of my admittedly over-ambitious design plans, but the instructor was kind enough to let me go a bit free-style with the shapes rather than select one of the tiny cookie-cutters provided.

After patiently waiting for our creations to dry, we delicately sanded down the edges, drilled holes for the jump rings and transferred them to a work bench ready for firing. Armed with creme-brulee torches, we then toasted the charms for about 3 minutes each before gingerly transferring them to a water bath for them to cool down. At this point they still looked pretty unimpressive, but after just a couple of firm strokes of the wire brush the silver started peeking through - amazing!

After meticulously going through the rainbow of sanding papers, the charms were super shiny and very much solid silver.

I made three charms in the end, and it's really surprising how much you can make from just 5g of the stuff. My creations were the free-style birdie, apple (from mould) and the 'L' (from mould) which literally used up the last little crumbs of clay.

It's not often you actually end up wearing/using the things made at a crafty workshop, but I have taken rather a liking to the birdie and have even gotten a few compliments! So now E and I literally want to do every course available at the London Jewellery School. Yes, even the tiara one.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Around the world yarns

After a bit of a hiatus I'm finally back from our round the world whistle-stop tour! Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and California all in one month was pretty intense to say the least - but totally amazing! I think I'm still trying to digest all the impressions in my head.. But I won't bore you with the details. Instead, let me tell you about the lovely yarns I picked up along the way. You can't expect me to travel the world and *not* purchase any yarn surely?!

First stop was Wool Baa in Melbourne, as recommended by a friend who lives locally. After following her hand-drawn map, complete with tram instructions, I made it there safely.

Wool Baa had a mix of yarns including the usual Rowan and Debbie Bliss, but they also had some nice local produce. I ended up succumbing to two hanks of Pear Tree 6ply in 'Moss':

After picking up a fist full of brochures from the tourist office in Federation Square, my interest was piqued by a store called Onabee which *looked* as though it was not too far away...
Turns out that the map was rather misleading, and after a 1.5h walk I finally found the place - only to discover that it was right next to a train station. At least I got home again quickly.
It was worth the slog though, as Onabee housed a very cute collection of Oz only yarn as well as pretty Etsy-style jewellery and cross stitch kits.
In the end I plumped for a skein of super-local Lara Downs 4ply Fine Kid Mohair and some Ms Gusset (heehee) sock yarn.

Having arrived in New Zealand, I was hell bent on finding some possum yarn. Thankfully I didn't have to wait too long, as a (admittedly rather touristy) shop in Queenstown had the wares I was after: Touch Yarns Possum/Merino.

The final yarn stop was ArtFibres in San Francisco. Such a lovely shop/studio! I was initially rather overwhelmed at the sheer choice, but after some methodical investigation and groping, I managed to pick out two faves: Tantra (100% Tussah silk) and Carezza (30% Silk, 30% Alpaca, 40% Merino).

Anyone for roving?


The nice lady even let me browse Ravelry in order to work out how much yardage I needed - now that's proper customer service!