Art Elements Design Challenge and Blog Hop - Bees

I have to admit that I went into this Art Elements challenge without a clue or inspiration once again simply because I loved the topic Niky chose - bees.
Here's an old picture from our little garden in the back and one from the wonderful Cambridge University Botanic Garden.

Now to the challenge.
I don't have many yellow beads. I have some Delicas, some Czech seed beads, and I had a bracelet that had been waiting to get ripped up, with wire crochet flowers of riverstone and yellow cat eye beads. I thought the cat eye beads would make nice little bee bodies, but I could hardly paint black stripes on. So instead I decided not to make bees, but to loom something inspired by bee colors.
The plan was a bead loomed base in black and yellow with cat eye embellishments. For contrast I used black seed beads and yellow thread, and because I didn't want the cat eyes to sit too high, I thought I'd leave neat little cutouts in the base for them.
So I loomed and then started reweaving threads. Nine beads meant nine cutouts meant 54 more threads to weave in. The number was not the problem, I don't mind reweaving, but although I left the warp threads quite long on both sides, most of these threads were very short. After all they were no extra threads. The one row in which three cutouts "met" - not the smartest idea I ever had - resulted in having to get eight threads out of one long one. So mostly I went back along the warp thread with the needle, threaded it then, pulled through, went through one of the horizontal rows with the needle, threaded it, pulled through .... for just one of 54 threads. Repeat, repeat, repeat ... I do have shorter needles, but they are a little too thick for my taste.
Finally I could sew the cat eyes in. When I was done, however, I looked at my bracelet and thought, wow, that is really, really ... BORING! Ugh.

What now? I had to come up with something to spruce this up a little. I tried this and that, and finally I gave all of the little yellow bees wings from clear AB size 15 seed beads. They are rather delicate, so I didn't want them flapping on the bracelet, and I fastened each wing tip to the loomed base.
Unfortunately I still wasn't happy. It couldn't be helped, those bees needed their stripes. What if I gave each one a stripe from size 15 seed beads? Of course they wouldn't sit tightly on the bodies, but you'd get the idea of bees. Only when I had "painted" all nine cat eyes, I thought a second stripe might be even better o.O

Ok then. Hm. Now I wished I had thought of that from the beginning and given the bees a green base to sit on. Not that I would have had the beads to do that. Not that I wanted to start all over again. Not that it even made sense to think about now. Night flying bees. Are there bees that fly in the night? Obviously there isn't that much known about bees and their sleep, except that they do sleep or at least take naps. Worker bees in the hive also work during the night, but bees don't fly at night.
Well, mine did now and it looked rather dark. I could at least give them some flowers? So that's what I did.
Believe me, there is a LOT of thread in those base beads and a lot of time in the bracelet!
Now I just had to add the findings, though, in a gold tone this time which works better here than my usual silver or copper tones.

Wow. I honestly wasn't sure if I'd make it in time. I'm almost impressed by my own patience :-P

This is a blog hop, so please check out the other participants' posts as well!

Alysen - Cat (that's me ;-)) - Evie and Beth - Hope - Kathy - Kelly - Sarajo - Tammy  

AE team members

Cathy - Jennifer - Jenny - Marsha - Niky - Sue

I'll end this post with a picture collage of bees (flying by day ;-)) sent to me by a friend. Aren't they beautiful?


A favorite product - The JaLa bead loom

This is difficult. I never review a product or almost never.
The Jewelry Artisans Community blog carnival got the topic "Review a favorite product", though (what idiot chose that one and called it simple on top of that, oh yeah, it was me), so now I have to choose a favorite product first and then I have to talk about it.
My problem? I never thought about even having such a favorite. Sure, I always get my copper wire from the same manufacturer which obviously means it's my favorite copper wire, I mostly have one brand of crochet hooks in two sets, I usually stick to the same kind of thread or seed and cylinder beads. Even some of my tools - not expensive then - are still the same as ten years ago.
I have been wearing the same style of jeans and sneakers, even socks for decades. I'm a very loyal customer, if I like something and if I'm not getting disappointed with the quality, I'll stick with what I know. Boring, possibly, but hassle-free. This goes for things that are not high on my priority list. I never aspired to be a trendsetter. If I could get my favorite shirt in different colors for decades to come, that would be perfect.
That doesn't mean, however, I don't try out anything new at all in my life. As you know I love experimenting with new ideas, techniques and designs. I'm even game to try a new recipe (if I don't have to cook myself ;-)).

Then it suddenly came to me. I have a bunch of bead looms. I'm quite happy with my smaller ones most of the time (Peak Dale Bead Loom, I have the Giant, Long and Ultimate, and I have one that I put together from the side parts of an Ultimate with the dowels and springs of a Basic) although the Giant and Ultimate could have more space between the two thread separators for my personal taste and kind of work, but for larger panels, for my portraits or other special pieces I always turn to my JaLa loom.
I own this one thanks to a dear friend, so it's special to me in more than one way.
Unfortunately JaLa Looms are not made anymore, so I can only make your mouth water now, but not tell you where to get one. Believe me, had I known that before I would have sold my cats to get another one (not just because of the price, but postage and possible tax/custom fees from overseas for a piece of that weight). Okay, I wouldn't have done that of course, but I would definitely have saved up for another one. 
Mine is the model 0818 which means a workspace of 8" and a track length of 18", it holds about 128 warps. There was also the longer 0836, both lengths came in the wider 1218 and 1236 as well which hold about 190 warps, and the fix length loom 0612f for 90 warps. Sleds and tracks were also available individually.

Let me show you this little beauty. Makes me feel like a proud mom (don't mind the table and its scratches, it's where cat meds were and are given)! ;-)
The sleds move on the tracks, so you can adjust the exact length you need for your project. This is the setting for my fan wall portraits.

With these wooden bars you can adjust the tension after warping the loom. You just need to loosen the bar using an Allen key on the screws.

This is the loom from the back. There is some cork on there to avoid scratching surfaces (that is pretty hilarious looking at my table) and to give the loom some grip. At least that is what I think. I don't work at a table myself, you know. I sit on my bed or in my TV chair, have the knees up and the loom against my legs. For me that is the perfect position.

Here you see one of the differences between the JaLa and the Peak Dale. I don't think I have to add anything to that.

Just have a look at the perfectly beautiful construction and finish of this sled. It's so smooth that it doesn't snag any threads if I have a blanket over my legs for example when looming.

This is the JaLa in comparison with the Peak Dale Giant.
Again, I'm happy with my Peak Dale looms for what they cost. They may look very flimsy compared to the JaLa, but it's a bit like with cars. You can get from A to B with a Mini or a Rolls Royce and both can satisfy you in very different ways, comfort or price for example. The Peak Dales do their job, no doubt, and I do use them a lot. They are not adjustable, though, sometimes I catch my working thread on the nuts and screws, they have springs instead of the rod, the components don't stand a chance compared to those of the JaLa.
The JaLa is the Rolls Royce. It's sturdy and well-thought-out in its details. On top of that it's beautiful.

Back in 2014 when I got this loom I had already posted a picture here and from my few sentences you could tell the same excitement and happiness that I still feel now after having worked with it so much.
It may sound strange to you, but I still get that same feeling when I rest the weight of this loom against my legs, ready to start something new.

Maybe you know now why I don't write reviews. I'm not good talking about technical stuff and I sound silly if I bring emotions into this.
As mentioned before, this is a blog carnival, though. Maybe someone else will be better at this than I am. I'll add the links as I get them. Have a look!

Jewelry Art by Dawn


Random Saturday - Mr Boxer

I met one of my oldest friends almost 30 years ago thanks to Steiff. My ex and I were in the Bay Area for the first time because of a conference. Back in the days it was still possible to combine a conference and holidays (four states in a week, I still don't know how Americans do something like that), so while he was preparing for his first talk in English in a fancy Berkeley hotel (our motel was not quite as nice), I got to discover the area participating in what was called the "ladies' program" in a flippant way, even if in that case the conference participants' partners all happened to be women.
On the first day, however, we did get the chance to explore San Francisco on our own, and our first stop was FAO Schwarz whose connection to Steiff was famous among collectors thanks to some special editions. After spending some money there *cough cough* we asked if they knew how we could get to know collectors in the USA. They couldn't help us with that, but they offered us the phone number of a lady who had done repair of some studio Steiffs for them before.
I still remember how nervous I was when I called her. How do you explain to someone that you don't know them, but you got their number from the toy store because you collect old plush animals? I guess it was destiny because we are still friends now.

I can't sew. I never learned it, and the little sewing I have to do is exhausting to me, but when Jenn came to visit Germany for the first time, she gave me the sweetest little dwarf that she had made herself, and suddenly I had the crazy idea that she should show me how to sew a simple bear.
In the end I had three bears, I think, I'm not sure where the two smaller ones are.
This one, however, guards my CD shelf from which he falls down quite regularly, even more after Gundel moved in. For some reason she keeps pushing him off which is not something she does with other things. Maybe her headbutts are too much for him. She did again today which is why I thought he deserved a random Saturday post.

His name is Boxer. He's hand sewn from a beige tipped black synthetic fur, has paw pads from dark grey felt, vintage light blue painted glass eyes - with that fur it would have been hard to see the eyes if I had picked brown ones - and a pink nose - which would be very unusual for a black bear, but I found he was a little unusual, anyway.
I called him Boxer because I seriously believe he's in the fitness studio too often. Just look at those shoulders.
Ok, so it's actually that's not his fault, I didn't think the arms would sit that high up in the end, but I love him nonetheless.

He's soft and cuddly and sweet and proof that I have used a sewing needle before! ;-)


Oldies but Goodies - The colors of jam

I never ate that much jam. It's not that I don't have a sweet tooth, I definitely do, but for breakfast jam has hardly ever been my first choice. I like my bread rolls with cheese or egg. Maybe if I'm really hungry, I'll have a slice with jam last, kind of like a "breakfast dessert".
It drove my ex crazy when I asked to have just one bite, but what should I do if that was all I really wanted, otherwise I would have got me some bread with jam myself.

It's still a very rare event that I buy jam for myself because I know people who give it to me which is very nice of them, either as a souvenir from a trip or because they make it themselves. Jam, marmalade, jelly in all kinds of fruity variations, for example plum, quince, raspberry, strawberry, grape, blueberry, but also ginger and my favorite one hands down - "orange with Queen Mum's favorite (aka gin)"!
Do you know the difference between jam, marmalade and jelly, by the way? 
Looking at my various glasses gave me the idea for this week's Jewelry Artisans Community Oldies but Goodies Challenge, the colors of jam.
Which kinds do you recognize? And which is your own favorite flavor of jam? Bon appetit!

1 Jewelry Art by Dawn
2 The Crafty Chimp
3 My Bijou Life
4 RioRita
5 Cat's Wire


Oldies but Goodies - Happiness

Times are not nice ... and I'm sure you know what words I'd rather use. There are days when I really struggle with it - even a couch potato like me can go a little crazy after weeks of self-isolation - which is the reason why I chose this topic for our Jewelry Artisans Community Oldies but Goodies Challenge.

I'm not the motivational type, I never have been (honestly, I only had that one poster for the picture, not the phrase when I was a teenager!), but I think it helps a little to hang on to the things that make me happy. It can be something big or something small.
I'm happy for example about having a family and neighbors helping me out during these times. I'm happy to have Gundel with me even if she has definitely begun to show her mischievous side. You should hear her talk back to me sometimes, but hey, the cat is the boss, we all know that, and it would be very lonely without her. I'm happy that I'm on vacation this week and even remembered in time although I hardly ever know at the moment what day and date it is. That means "The Avengers" binge is on - Mr Steed and Mrs Peel, that is, no superheroes for me. I'm happy to see the pear trees behind the house bloom.

And I'm happy to present this selection from the challenge. Some beautiful happy pieces there, don't you think?

1 My Bijou Life
2 The Crafty Chimp
3 Cat's Wire
4 RioRita
5 Jewelry Art by Dawn


The Easter Bunnaroo

Move over, Easter Bunny. Take a step back, Easter Beagle (sorry, I still do love you). There's a new kid in town.
Meet the Easter Bunnaroo.

There are different opinions of him, but I can't help thinking that this little dude has a bunny Mom and a kangaroo Dad.
Of course I could say I knew that from the start, but actually I have to admit that the plan had been to give a little Easter bunny to some lovely people. It was my first one, and maybe I should have paid more attention to the mischievous giggle of muse Mabel in my head.

I poked and poked and my little bunny became bigger, especially his head, while the ears seemed to shrink with my trying to make that big head sit right on the body. For some reason his belly started growing as well, so I had to make the feet longer ... maybe a little more wool around the neck ... at least the tail is still that of a bunny, but it's too small now, more roving .... okay, I finally gave up trying to change him because I actually like him the way he is, and I hope so will the people he went hopping to. I mean, he's bringing gifts, right?

I admit I had a bit of a hard time letting him go. I'm sure this feeling will change once I have made more critters, but at the moment they are all my children. Weird children maybe, but that was to be expected, after all they are mine ;-)


Nostalgia - Blind King Charles

Some years ago when I still did the "Finds of the week" posts, I had some called "I'm a collector" in which I shared vintage items. Over time my collections have mostly stopped growing due to different reasons, but they are still there and still loved. I also have vintage items, some inherited, some gifts, some from fleamarkets, some more interesting than others. So I thought it could be fun to share some of them every, now and then and tell their story.
Welcome to a new nostalgia post in which I will tell you not one tale this time, but three - the tale of blind King Charles, the tale of the eye tin, and the tale of Ada-Ada all of which are connected to one another.

First of all let me take you to a big fleamarket in Tübingen about 30 years ago. We - my ex and I - were still very new at collecting Steiff back then. We made some epic mistakes, but which beginner doesn't, and don't forget, not only didn't we have internet in those times, but there were also not many Steiff books or price guides out there.
So when we found that little blind dog at a stand, we were not at all sure if the asked price of 30 DM was okay. We knew that it was a sitting "Charly", a King Charles Spaniel, famous for their association to King Charles II of England. "Charly" had been produced by Steiff between 1928 and 1936.
You could tell this one had had a bit of rough life. His fur looked a bit sparse here and there, but worst of all, his eyes were missing! We didn't have any eyes for him at home, and even being almost 60 years old, was he worth the money (we were a young couple and couldn't just throw money around)? He did still have his old button with remnants of red tag that was used from 1926 to 1934 underneath. We put him back on the table to think about it, took a few steps and went right back because we know we couldn't leave him there. He was so cute, and we would think of something. I guess that is how plush animals and dolls end up with buttons for eyes, but that wasn't to be our Charly's fate.
Obviously this is him with eyes which brings me to the next tale.

I don't remember at all when and how we stumbled upon the "eye tin" that I have mentioned before. I just remember how excited we were about it. In it there were mostly vintage glass eyes for plush animals, brown, blue, green, blue/green, pink, and of course the small brown ones I showed in the other post.
The first thing to do was to find the right size for Charly to give him his eyesight back. That was so much better! How could we ever even have thought about not taking him home?

Those eyes helped out some other animals over the years, a big one-eyed Fluffy cat, a big llama that had had to make do with some cheap plastic eyes before it came to us, and more.
Finally the tin got put away waiting for new patients to come along, but there weren't any. It was never forgotten completely, standing out there in the open, but the only time it was needed was when I made a teddy of my own. He's black and has blue eyes. I think he was the last one getting eyes from the tin.
I opened it every, now and then, admired the eyes and then put the lid back on.
Only when I started needle felting I thought it was time to put at least some of them to good use.

Here are a few quick pictures now. These are not showing the complete collection of eyes, and you can see I didn't go through dusting them yet, either.
The green eyes for example decided to break out of their bag and jump all over the tin, so they didn't get a picture. Serves them right. One of them smuggled its way into the small collection of bluish/green eyes #2 of which I only have very few. You can tell the difference easily. We are calling them pre-war eyes because it is a beautiful color that was usually used on old cats. It's hard to capture the soft beauty, but you can tell it is not green and it's also not light blue like #4 (which were in the worst shape from the beginning with the paint on the back flaking off very quickly, so most of them are almost clear now).
#1 shows a variety of brown tones including one showing white around the brown. There are more, but some sneaked in with the green.
#3 and #5 are two different kinds of pink eyes used for albino rabbits for example. While #3 are flat painted eyes, #5 have pink glass in the back. I can't be sure, but I always thought they were newer ones.

Maybe I'll get around to clean them up a little, set them up better and take good pictures, but I think you get the idea of the eye tin now.

Time for the third tale which means I'll have to go back to Charly for a moment.
Charly may not have his original Steiff name tag anymore, but he came with a different paper tag on a cord around his neck. We never bothered to try and find out what that tag was about, but we left it on because it seemed to be part of Charly's story. Maybe he had been a gift from a shop or something.
These are both sides of the tag.

One means "50 years of valued workmanship" with the brand ADA-ADA in the center, the other one translates to "Walking well with ADA-ADA".
When I looked it up, I found that ADA-ADA was a big shoe company. It was founded in 1900 by two Jewish brothers (a third brother was co-owner). They started by making children's shoes and later also ladies' shoes. In 1937 they were expropriated and the owners managed to emigrate to the USA in time. After the war they received restitution, the brand didn't go back to them, however. It was one of the biggest of its kind in Germany in the 50s, but finally ceased to exist in 1966.
The name was rather funny. In German "to go ada-ada" is baby talk for taking a walk. From what I read in a history blog they think that the founder was inspired by this term for the name of his business.

If you are as great at math as I am (can you hear my math teacher laughing?), you now know that it's impossible that Charly came with the tag as he was produced until 1936, but ADA-ADA only turned 50 in 1950.
Why should a shoe company or even a single shoe store use old Steiff animals for advertising? (Steiff studio animals were not unusual in shoe stores, by the way, but that's a different story.) My guess would be that a child inherited Charly and put that tag on him, maybe after his name tag had fallen off.
I have thought about taking it off, but I still think it's part of his story even if we will never know what exactly that is.
As long as he doesn't seem to mind ...