Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Recommended Reading

I'm still eagerly awaiting my steel hammering block, so I don't have any new completed wire-based jewelry designs to share with you yet. I'm hoping that it will come in the mail tomorrow, but I'm not holding my breath.

In the meantime, I'd like to recommend a couple of very good wire jewelry books that I just checked out from the good ol' public library. Both are penned by the same author, Linda Jones, whom I must say certainly seems to know her way around a spool of wire. The introduction sections of both books demonstrated a vast knowledge of wire-craft and I found them very helpful, informative, and easy to read. So without further ado... here are "Creating Wire and Beaded Jewelry" and it's culture-specific counterpart, "Wire and Bead Celtic Jewelry."

"Creating Wire and Beaded Jewelry" has more to do with, but is by no means limited to, making gorgeous chains one beautiful link at a time. The images on the cover actually give a very good representation of its content. However, it doesn't take much imagination to realize that any of these lovely chain links can easily be adapted to an earring design or possibly even a hairstick embellishment. (Why, oh why, is my steel bench block not here yet?! Sigh...)

"Wire and Bead Celtic Jewelry" offers a wider variety of projects, such as shawl pins, rings, and even a very cool twisted wire torque pattern. While I'll admit that most of the designs in the book didn't smack of being terribly Celtic-themed to me, the ones that did really delivered. Also, there are some fabulous jig pattern templates in the back of the book in case you happen to have one of these babies:

It's a deluxe wire jig set. You can get one at most craft stores. I bought mine at the local Jo-Ann Fabrics for only twenty bucks... well, $13.50 with my coupon. ;) It's a Darice brand jig and I think we're going to get along just fine. It seems quite simple and easy to use, though I'll admit that I haven't had a chance to actually use it yet. (Is that steel block here yet? No? Oh, well...)

Well, it's way past my bedtime. Later, folks!

Saturday, May 23, 2009


I just got a bunch of free bead supplies in exchange for agreeing to make someone a necklace. Check out my loot!

Everything was purchased from Hobby Lobby, which is currently having a half off sale of on some of their beading supplies. Believe it or not, I'd never gotten around to shopping there before. It seems I was missing out! Anyway, I got mostly bead caps and a couple of nice pendants. Also a new pair of wire cutters because my old ones had gotten pretty dull and the soft plastic handle covers wore off a few weeks ago. And check out my cool little chasing hammer! It's for hammering wires.

I'm in the process of learning to make my own ear wires and wire jewelry. Unfortunately, finding a smooth steel block to hammer on proved impossible. I checked two local craft stores that both carried the hammers, but no blocks. I made a point to explain it to the staff (in the interest of being helpful, of course) that it's kind of useless to sell the hammers without offering hammering blocks. I mean, what are you supposed to hammer on without one? A mere table won't suffice -- it's likely to suffer a lot of damage during the hammering process... which would probably be ineffective anyway since you'd just be hammering the wire into the tabletop. A sturdy steel work bench would probably do the trick, but how many crafters have one of those laying around? Well, my mother-in-law probably does, but she's into really hardcore crafts like carpentry.

I also tried the local hardware store but they only had steel plates. They were sturdy enough, but they had an unpleasantly textured surface that would mar the finish of the hammered wire. You really need something perfectly smooth. Finally, I gave it up as a bad job and ordered one online yesterday. It was probably all for the best as the one that I found was made from smooth, case-hardened steel designed specially for hammering wire jewelry. You can find several such blocks on Etsy very easily if you are intereted, btw. Just do a supplies search there using the words "steel block." I can't wait until mine gets here! I've already shaped a ton of antiqued brass into ear wires in anticipation. I'll write up a nice free ear wire tutorial here as soon as I get the block, so look out for it! Until next time!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

New Jewelry On the Way!

I made this piece for my grandmother for Mother's Day this year. Isn't the pendant beautiful?

I've decided to call the piece Hunter's Moon. Hunter's Moon is an old name for the full moon phase of October, so called because the moon is particularly bright at that time of year, allowing ancient peoples to "get their hunt on" all night long in preparation for winter. It's also known as a Blood Moon for the same reason. (As a vegetarian I find this association quite icky, yet strangely romantic. Must be my ultra-girly love of vampire stuff kicking in.)

I wish that I knew what kind of stone the pendant is made of... I purchased it at my local Michaels a few months ago. Guess now I have the perfect excuse to stop back by there and have myself another awesome bead-buying adventure. :) Until then, my best guess is brecciated jasper. I'll post the definite name of the stone later if I'm able to ferret it out.

Anyway, I'm also excited to be unveiling several new earring designs that I will be uploading to my Etsy shop sometime in the next few days. Here's a sneak peak:

This one will be called The Chestnut Fairy...

...and this pair of lovelies are two variations of a design I like to call Calpurnia. A bit of wisdom that I've picked up during my bead-ventures: Copper + Any Shade of Blue or Blue/Green = Breathtaking. Trust me, from teal to turquoise it's all gravy. Particularly if the beads used are made of clear glass or stone. There's something so elegant and antique about that color combination, which is why I named the above pair of earrings after Julius Caesar's last wife, Calpurnia. I can easily imagine a powerful woman in the ancient civilized world wearing something like those earrings. I can see it all now... the brilliant facets glinting as they dangle majestically from her ears; lounging gracefully on embroidered silk cushions, the slaves bustling about to tend to her every whim; the fresh olives and wine served on hand-hammered gold platters; the pomp and ceremony; the husband getting stabbed to death in broad daylight by his friends and co-workers... Ahem, well... nevermind that last part.

I'll be sharing more designs soon. I'm also kicking around the idea of having a Spring-into-Summer sale at my shop all next month, so stay tuned for more news on that. Until next time!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hairsticks, Take 2

As promised, I had my husband take a thirty-second film of how quick and easy it is to do this hairstyle. Without further ado, here you go!

Note that my hair is only just past shoulder length, so you don't even need uber-long tresses to pull this look off. And I did it in thirty seconds. Nice, huh?

As I mentioned in the previous post, the trick to properly securing the updo is to make sure that you're trapping the ends of the hair between the bulk of the hair (i.e., the bun coil you just made) and the scalp. The stick's role is to basically just keep your hair trapped against itself and your noggin'. Oh, and in case it was difficult to see how I was maneuvering the stick around, I simply stuck it in underneath the coil against my scalp, directed the point end to come out through the middle point (with the bulk of the coil on top of it and the last couple inches of hair under it), then flipped the stick right-side-up and pushed it firmly into place underneath all of the hair, right up against my scalp. It's really quite easy... you can see me struggling in the video a bit with the last part, but that's only because my hair is so think that I have to wiggle/muscle the stick through a little to make it through all of the hair growing out of my scalp. A note on that, actually... NEVER PUT THE BULK OF THE TENSION ON THE STICK as you weave it through your hair. Even the best and strongest wooden hairsticks are still breakable with enough force applied. Don't put the strain on the decorative beaded portion either for the same reason. Use your hand and finger muscles to maneuver it instead.

Two more pieces of advice:

1.) Don't scratch up your poor head with the tip of the stick. As I was trying to teach myself how to wear hairsticks for the first time, I accidentally did this to myself several times as I tried to make sure that I was securing my hair firmly enough. It isn't necessary to scrape up your skull just to style it properly. And it hurts!

2.) If the bun is a little too loose, just do it again. What's thirty more seconds? If it's too tight, you can either re-do it or try wiggling the stick around a little with one hand while you hold the bun securely with the other. This can often help make things more comfortable. By no means should it feel like someone's pushing the side of a pencil as hard as they can into your scalp. You will only give yourself a headache if you don't fix it.

Well, that's it. Feel free to contact me with any questions by posting a comment on this blog or sending me a message at my Etsy shop, which can be found here: www.sylvantreasures.etsy.com.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


This is my first entry... so let's dive right in and make it interesting!

Today I want to talk about hairsticks. (Or hair sticks. Whatever you prefer.) I've recently "discovered" these fabulous accessories and I am in love. Not only are they a fashionable, eye-catchingly chic way to put up one's hair... they also have an amazing, unexpected benefit over elastic hair ties. To put it simply, when a hairstick is used it doesn't just hold hair back severe and straight against your head the way an elastic-wrapped ponytail does. Interestingly, the action of weaving the stick into your hair results in a slightly more relaxed and fuller look to the bound hair that is much more feminine and graceful. It also looks particularly fetching if you pull out a few tendrils to frame your face. Adding a pair of ornamental combs to the updo makes for a positively stunning presentation. For example:

Please pardon the less-than-stellar picture quality... it's extremely difficult to take a picture of the back of one's own head. Anyway, perhaps you can get an idea of what I mean. The hair is somewhat relaxed and drapes gracefully around the head, quite unlike the elastic-held do's that pull it back into a severe-looking bundle. Take my word for it -- it gives the face a softer, more gentle look that gets noticed. I'm guaranteed to get at least one comment whenever I wear a hairstick out... from both men and women. That's right, ladies... the same guys who wouldn't notice if I got a haircut, perm, and dye job all at the same time actually notice my hair. As my space-nerd dream-boat Spock would say: Fascinating.

There are more ways to put your hair up using hairsticks than you can... well... shake a hairstick at. For some great examples, just go to www.youtube.com and type in "hairstick" or "hair stick." So many fabulous possibilities.

Most of the time, I just gather my hair up as if I were to make a regular old ponytail then I twist it all to the right, coiling it around itself as i do so, then weave a stick upside down (point up) from the bottom of my hair through to the top, flip it 180 degrees so that it's point-down, then shove it back through the coil to secure it. The trick is to make sure that you trap the ends of the hair between the stick and the hair itself. It may take a little bit of practice before you get it down, but it's really quite fast and simple once you wrap your brain around it. I'll be posting a video of myself doing the above style to give you a better idea of what I'm attempting to describe. I'm a visual learner myself, so I appreciate the value of pictures when it comes to teaching oneself a new technique.

Well, I'm gonna hit the hay. More techniques and ideas later. Oh, and don't forget to check out my shop's selection of hair sticks here. There's only a few up for sale right now, but I'm working on expanding it and hope to have several cool new designs ready to go in the next week or two. Laters!