Friday, March 14, 2014

Behind the Scenes: Photo Filters

When taking photos (lots and lots of photos) the other day, I decided to get a little fancy-schmancy and play around with some of the filter settings on my camera. The resulting photos will be exclusive to this blog post - lucky you, Dear Reader! - and they are below.

Victorian-inspired cameo necklace
shot in high-contrast monochrome.
Same as above, but with a brighter light setting.
I think I like the darker one better. How about you?

Gemstone frame necklace shot with a soft filter.
I kinda like it.
Gray marble necklace (coming soon!)
shot in high-contrast monochrome.

Amethyst and moonstone necklace
shot with color-exclusive (purple only) filter.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Kid Play: Cloud Dough

Yesterday, I wrote a bit about letting the kiddo play in some cloud dough, and I've received some questions about what that actually is, so let me fill y'all in. :)

First thing, I don't have any photos. Sorry! This stuff is kind of messy, even when I'm not playing in it, and I didn't want my camera to get gunked up. Seriously, I wound up with bits of flour all the way up to my elbows the other day, and I have no idea how that happened. All I did was dump the dough into the tub for her.

Secondly, I originally got the idea (and the recipe) from Pinterest; specifically, from the blog Juggling With Kids, and even more specifically, this post here. I hadn't heard of cloud dough before, and if I've seen it before, I didn't remember it.

Cloud dough is amazingly easy to make. The recipe I found called for 8 cups of flour (presumably all-purpose flour; that's what I used) and 1 cup of baby oil. The flour I had on-hand already, and I found a tub (side-note: it's only a litter box if that's what you actually use it for) and a bottle of baby oil at the local Dollar Tree for a buck apiece.

I made just a half-recipe to start because I wasn't sure the kiddo would like it. This was over a year ago, and we're still on the same batch of cloud dough. I've been keeping it in a plastic gallon freezer bag (also found at the Dollar Tree!), and it's kept just fine on a shelf. I don't know why it wouldn't, just that I can't say the same thing about the batch of Oobleck I tried making - that stuff grew moldy in a week or two, and was gross. The cloud dough, though, is still going strong.

Based on my own experiences, I recommend this activity for kids over a year old. The first time I tried letting the girl play with it, she wasn't quite a year old yet (9-10 months old, maybe?) and was mostly interested in taste-testing. The next time was about six months later, and she loved burying my hands in the dough. No more taste-testing. She's almost two now, and she delights in using some measuring cups and spoons to help her mold the dough and make shapes in it.

When we play, I put the tub of dough into the bathtub, and when she's done, the dough goes back into its baggie and everything else gets washed right there in the bathtub, including the kiddo. She's old enough now that she helps me wipe down the flour gunk off the bathtub floor, which is nice. :) This is a great activity (for my household, at least) to do right before nap-time, because of the clean-up bath. It might just be my kid, but she loves baths and playing in the water, and it is very soothing for her.

You can find more of my collection of kid projects and play ideas here and here, and my main Pinterest page is here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Best Bargains for Tools (That I've Found)

When I really started my beading journey - when I decided that I wanted to try making my own earrings, and do more than macrame - I didn't want to spend a lot on tools because I was just starting out and what if I didn't like the new techniques? I felt like that money would have been wasted. So, I decided to ignore the advice I had read online (that being to buy the best tools you can afford) and bought some tools that were very inexpensive but that get the job done. Even nowadays, when I've been stringing and wire-working for years, I still tend to stick to things that work, rather than things that are the best. On that note, here are the best buys and finds (in no particular order) that I've encountered, for beading tools and storage.

1. Starter Kits

I have always learned best with instructions in front of me. As a result, when I want to learn a new technique, I pick up a kit. They usually have extra beads that I can keep for bead soup or design alterations, and they're often less expensive than taking a class (unless the class is free). Anyway, I was looking at some of the craft kits in Wal-Mart one day, and an earring kit called my name. It required roundnose pliers and wire cutters, though, and I didn't have either of those. I went looking at the tools, and as luck would have it, they sold various tools individually, as well as a starter kit that had roundnose, bentnose, and chainnose pliers, along with the wire cutters, a bead reamer, and a bead-tweezer/scoop, all in a carrying case. It was on sale, and it went for about what it would have cost to individually buy the two tools I was looking for in the first place. They do the same job as expensive, ergonomic versions of the same tools, the kit had everything I needed to get started, and since the price was so low, I wasn't very worried about using the wire cutters to see if they could cut stainless steel floral pins. (Spoiler alert: they cut the pins, but the pins put dings in the cutting blades.) To this date, the wire cutters are the only tool out of that kit that I've had to replace, and I've used those tools for years. The cutters would still be fine if I had heeded the Internet, which said to use special cutters made specifically for stainless steel.

2. Nail File = Metal Sanding Device

As a toddler wrangler, the local Dollar Tree is my store of choice for fun little things for my kiddo to play with. I sometimes find other things, like this awesome nail file/buffer. I immediately picked up two, one for me and one for smoothing the cut ends of wires. You see, I found this tutorial one day on how to make your own sanding sticks for smoothing metal, and I had been on the lookout for something similar unless or until I made my own sanding sticks. Emery boards, which is what I had been using, can get expensive, and the ones I used only had two grits. This one, on the other hand, has seven, and gets wire ends down to a smooth finish. I used it to make the ends of the clasps on the Lydia Collection necklaces smooth. As I do more things with metal, I will probably upgrade to actual wire burs and metal files and what-not, but in the meantime, this nail buffer works incredibly well. I do recommend using some basic safety gear, though - breathing mask, eyewear, and rubber gloves. I would recommend the same if you use the sanding sticks. The filing process leaves "metal dust", and it's better to be safe than sorry.

3. Storage For a Buck, Can't Beat That!

Also at the Dollar Tree, I found little see-through, plastic tubs. They're perfect for holding wire, cording, and other large-ish materials. One dollar each, not too bad.

4. ...Or Can You? Storage for 50 Cents

There are several types of findings that I use on a regular basis and I need to have them out where I can reach them. I was out yard-sale-ing with my husband this summer, and found this awesome craft cabinet. It's small enough (about 8"x11", and 5" deep) to fit on top of a table while leaving me room to work, and it holds all my earwires, spacer beads, jump rings, and the like.

5. Storage for Free!

At my old job, the staff room was a place where we could bring in things to give away that people might be able to use. One lady brought in a box of small plastic boxes that she had gotten from a friend of hers - the boxes are completely see-through, have removable lids that snap shut, and they're about 2"x4"x1". In other words, they are perfect for beads. After I took about half of the box, she dropped a bombshell on me - she had a whole other box full of these little boxes and I could have them all! So now, I have almost all of my beads in these little boxes. Once I get an honest-to-goodness craft cabinet (or craft shelves, or something other than a large, green, not-see-through storage tub), I'll be able to see all my beads at a glance. As it is now, they're stored inside the aforementioned large, green tub, but I can pull out what I need, and the boxes work kind of like the compartments of a bead tray. They don't take up a lot of room on my work surface, either.

Now, I realize that a lot of these (namely the last two) were as a result of luck and/or being in the right place at the right time, but hopefully there's enough general information inside - look for clearance sales! hit up yard sales! ask around your workplace or other socializing area! - to help you all on whatever journey you're on. :)