Tackle that stash - Jasper and mookaite

More than four years ago I talked about jasper in a "tackle the stash" post. I told the story of the first jasper I liked and how I finally managed to make the right piece with it.
I don't know why, but mookaite - which is actually also a kind of jasper and comes from Australia - was another stone I didn't like much for a long time. I didn't use to work with earthy colors a lot and mookaite for me was always light brown together with a brownish red. Stupid me. Mookaite comes in many different colors, often combined in one stone, and so I guess it had to happen that I fell in love with it after all.

I've had these jasper donuts for a very long time. They came in a set with silver earring components and four more pairs of stone donuts. One of the components broke and so the stones were left over waiting for a new purpose. Over time, they got scattered here and there which is the reason that, after making earrings with the dark red jasper and the serpentine, I only had one snowflake obsidian and one light red jasper donut left. The other day, however, I had the luck to find the pair of picture jaspers.

My first thought was desert, my second one mookaite.
I'm really happy with the combination of the earthy jasper color and the rich red of the mookaite, and I think the gold ties the colors together neatly.

Now where are the second obsidian and red jasper ...... I know they must be here somewhere!


Jewelry with a story - Part 1 .... or 3? (A random Saturday post)

Today's post was inspired by this post on Nancy's Fashion Style which I found through my friend Michelle's blog My Bijou Life (which you should check out if you are interested in fashion, but also jewelry making, quilting, and more).

As a jewelry artisan, I sometimes wonder where my jewelry ends up. Is it worn, is it loved, does it have a story - like being a gift or purchase for a special occasion - will it continue to have a story and create memories, will it be passed on to someone else, will it end up in a goodwill bin or at a fleamarket and will it find someone new there?
I will never know and maybe that's a good thing.
Where do those thoughts come from, though?

In my life I have collected quite a bit of jewelry myself. I can't remember which was my first piece of jewelry, but one of the earliest ones must have been a red coral necklace that I lost quickly if I remember right. After that came two silver pendants, a heart and a filigree flower with a pearl in the center (that I stubbornly declared to be an edelweiss). I wore the heart 24/7 for a long time until an incident caused my taking it off for good.
After that my memories get a little fuzzy until I was about 12.

For this post, I picked some of my earliest silver rings because I had remembered already having written about my most precious piece - emotional value, not monetary - but then I had the strange feeling that I had told the story of my first friendship ring before as well. Guess what, I have. And some other stories as well.
Here. Doh. I'm getting old (but at least remembered just in time).
But hey, maybe this just IS a topic for more than one post. If I only drop those memories on you every, now and then, it should be fine, shouldn't it?
And if it means that my jewelry box gets organized once again and I maybe learn something, that's a nice side effect, right?

I put my silver rings back and instead I grabbed a piece that I got around the same time and which I knew nothing about yet. Let's try to find something out together.
It's a bangle that I can't remember having worn even once.
In 1977, I was invited to spend part of the vacation in the Bavarian Forest with my friend's family. They always had rooms with the same family in a small village and also spent evenings with them, playing cards or talking. When we didn't go hiking or visit other tourist spots like glass shops in the area, the lady of the house sent us on little errands into the village to keep us entertained. She was a talented dressmaker and I remember the bolero and skirt she sewed for my friend as a gift.
She didn't make me feel left out, though. When our vacation was over, she came up to me and said she had a gift for me, too - this bangle.

While I appreciated the gift as such, I think I may have been too young to appreciate the modernist design. Also the bangle felt too heavy on my wrist, and soon it went into my first jewelry box from where it moved to the next to the next to the next ...
Every, now and then I looked at it, but always decided against wearing it because it just wasn't my style. It's quite amazing how much wear it got although it wasn't worn. Being pewter - which I'm not sure I even realized despite the marking - it also bent rather easily out of shape.
A soap bath and a bit of polishing didn't make much difference. I couldn't try the other tip I found online, to use warmed up beer, as beer is not my beverage of choice and there wasn't any.

Of course we didn't have internet back then and later I didn't even bother with a closer look at the markings ... which I did for this post, though.
There are two. One says "Dansk handarbejde" = "Danish handicraft", the other one "Løgeskov tin Danmark".
I couldn't find anything about the history of Løgeskov pewter in German or English and my Danish consists of the incredibly useful sentence "The room is big", but a list told me that Løgeskov Tin was not the only pewter jewelry manufacturer in Denmark.

What I also found were several pictures of pieces that would have gone well with my bangle, either because the design was almost or completely the same or because the same bright red glass cabochons (always my favorite part of the bangle) were used, or both. Rings, pendants, earrings, they had it all, and some pieces are even for sale on German eBay at this moment.
Moreover, I discovered that my bangle came with glass cabochons in different colors, yellow, light green, or blue, for example.

Well, I've learned something new and the bangle will go back into the chest for now, it probably has got used to it in the last 45 years ;-)


A homage to needles

You probably don't remember Hannah Needle, my employee of the month in October 2020? She helped me with my HeatherCat sneakers and you can tell she was determined.
Actually I haven't been able to part with her, somehow she's a symbol of endurance to me even if I don't see that she will ever work again.

Others were not so lucky. I broke quite a few needles during my work on the sneakers and threw them out although I have to admit that I always did it saying thank you and sorry.
You think that's weird? Maybe. I'm not the only one, however, trying to express my feelings to inanimate objects that have served me well (or curse at others that are trying hard to annoy me!).
Have you ever heard of Hari Kuyō? It's a Japanese festival held for old needles, in some parts of the country on February 8, in others on December 8. It honors the Shinto deity Awashima no kami. People - mostly professional, but also hobby sewers - come to the temple to bury their needles. They give thanks and pray for becoming better at sewing in the future. The needles are placed in a piece of tofu or konnyaku jelly and sent on their last journey. The thought behind is that objects also have a soul and deserve such respect.

I had never really given needles much more thought beyond saying sorry, where and how they were produced and how many different kinds, lengths, and sizes there are.
Of course I had heard of the early beginnings of needles in the Neolithic times, made from bone, but that was about it.
I'm not going to go through needle history now, others have done that before and certainly much better than I could.
For example, I stumbled upon a German article in the 2018 annual of "netzwerk mode textil" (= "network fashion textile") about needle production in Aachen. I hadn't been aware that Aachen had been an important hub for high quality needle production, so much that they even got their own greeting from that, the "Klenkes", a stretched out little finger reminding of the way bad needles were sorted out by way of rolling them across the little finger to see if they were straight or not.

Now how did I find that article in the first place?
I had gone to eBay to look for beading needles and somehow ended up looking at vintage needles. My collector's heart fell in love with this cute pack of "Frauennadeln" (not even an inch!), literally translated "women's needles", a term that I had of course never heard before.
There are only two needles left in this pack, but look how pretty they are with their tiny golden ends! Yes, sorry, that's what collectors sound like, even if they haven't started a collection (yet).

When looking up the term, I found the article which also had an explanation for me.
"Frauennadeln" are used by dressmakers for sewing fine fabrics as apposed to "Männernadeln" ("men's needles") which are preferred by tailors for thicker fabrics, such as wool for example.
In English the long "Frauennadeln" are called "sharps" and the short "Männernadeln" are "blunts" which of course refers to the point of the needle. There is also a length between that and guess what, they are called "betweens" while in German they are just called "halblang" = "half long".
Long and fine needles with little expansion at the eye that are used in millinery or bead embroidery are called "straws" or millinery needles. I guess I won't have to explain what "darners" are. When was the last time you have darned a sock?
Last but not least, there are a lot of other needles, for upholstery or leather, sewing machine needles, also fixing or safety pins and special needles in medicine or - for us oldies ;-) - used in record players.

Of course I had also never heard of the Lammertz company, but learned from the article that Lammertz needles are treasured by their owners because of their good quality and that the shock was huge among professionals when Lammertz stopped production in 2003.

Today there are only two companies left in Europe that produce high end needles. One of them is John James, situated near London in Redditch, a name that is probably very familiar to beaders, the other one is Bohin in France which barely escaped the end in the early 2000s and now has a modern museum which keeps the history and techniques of needle making alive.

Here are some more needle packs that I got, and I have to confess that I just got another pack on eBay and submitted an offer for another one. They don't take up much space and rest comfortably between my Steiff animals.
I'll add the pictures for the other ones to this post when I get them.

This pack included in the lot doesn't have a nice picture, but Jecker was also one of the old companies with tradition.

If you sew, no matter if by hand or with the machine, you may want to take a closer look at your needles. Maybe you already have, though.
I'd love to hear your stories!

And here are the two needle packs now that I got on eBay.
Both of them still hold a bunch needles, so I can always claim that's why I got them ;-)

The first ones are DOSCO needles, made by
DOSCO Dossmann u. Co. Nadelfabrik Iserlohn in Westfalen. Except for Dossmann buying up the needle company of one of his neighbors and competitors, I couldn't find out anything about them.

I'm still trying to find out more about this tiny pack (like the Lammertz Splendor pack it's not even an inch) of Princess Victoria sharps in a size 12.
Browsing for vintage sewing needles, I have come across several Victoria packs with different pictures of Victoria.
If the name refers to an actual Princess Victoria, such as Queen Victoria's daughter or the daughter of Edward VII., remained as unclear to me as the manufacturer of the needles before they were marked PRYM (a brand that still exists today and sells Victoria needles in a combination from size 3 to 7, not in these little paper packs anymore, though, and also not silver or gold eyed anymore to "protect the environment").
Possibly the manufacturer intended them mainly for the British market and therefore used the name. On the other hand, the Queen's daughter, did become the German Empress, so who knows?

As for the differences:
Some labels are all English, some are all German (saying Prinzess instead of Princess and using the German terms for the needles, such as Frauennadeln), some are in English and German using the word "Prinzess" and "feinste", but the term "sharps", for example.
I even found a picture on eBay UK with an Italian label!

There are those without a country of origin, but also some that specify it, "Germany", "Made in Germany", "M.i W. Germany, Imp. Allemagne OCC" (those were by PRYM again), but also "Made in Czechoslovakia" or - in another example by PRYM - "Made in the Czech Republic".

Some labels look very vintage with a blurry print and much more detail, those marked PRYM, but not only them, look very modern with clear lines.

I guess these Victoria needles alone could make up a whole new collection!

Update August 1, 2022: here is my latest acquisition. Actually it's not just one needle pack, but three looking the same, and there's absolutely nothing I can say about them, except that the label designer seems to have been a fan of Greek mythology seeing that there are Hephaistos and Hermes at the top.
I did find a label with lightning - the needles were made by the Georg Printz company and called "lightning needles", but held by a hand, not by an eagle (?). It also beats me who the two gentlemen at the bottom are and what the medal in the center is trying to tell us.

Dorothea Nicolai: Ohne Nadeln keine Theater-Festspiele - die Nadelherstellung in Aachen am Beispiel der Nadelfabrik Leo Lammertz. In: netzwerk mode textil Jahrbuch 2018 (only in German with a short English summary)


Demon guardians

Told you there would be more wings! I had had no idea what they would look like, but once I glued the skulls on, they called for bat wings ... and of course sequins. Will I ever be able to make wings without them again?
The first earring took me longer than I care to admit because I had to experiment a little and rip some beads out again. Despite my usual problems with making a second earring that matches the first one, though, that's not a problem with bead embroidery for me at all, so the second one went faster at least.

I am thinking about making variations of these with my dark grey and my crystal AB skulls, with different wings.
What do you think? Are you tired of my bead embroidery already and would like to see other techniques again?

Here's a short video to show you the beauty of the black AB sequins shimmering in the light. I actually managed to upload a ten second video to YouTube, can you believe it, lol?
Please ignore the background noise that my old camera makes. I tried to turn the sound off, but the tips I found didn't work, no idea what I did wrong. I'm such a natural at this. Not!


Light butterfly

In September last year I made a black moth. I have always been attracted to black animals, birds, dogs, bunnies, and of course cats (okay, so cockroaches may be an exception). I bead embroidered the moth with wings full of sequins in different black tones, shiny, matte, AB, it was so much fun.

Only a few weeks later I decided to translate the idea into color with a big exotic butterfly from a beautiful glass cab and many differently colored sequins.

Both pieces sold quite quickly and I never got around to blog about them (that's a euphemism for my being too lazy or not motivated enough to blog much at all).

A few days ago I went through one of my inspections again and chose another old piece for ripping up (I wish my mind wouldn't tell me that they are in that drawer crying for help "nooo, don't do it"). While I was busy doing that, I remembered how I made it. It's funny what people use to measure the time of working something. For me it's usually movies or episodes of TV shows, in this case X-Files and the 1960 version of "The Village of the Damned".
My thoughts kept roaming and finally led me to these two winged creatures, probably because in one of my FB sale groups our topic was "Butterflies" at that time.
I love to make wings and I love the effect of sequins.
Not black this time, no colors, how about white and silver? After all I had a whole bunch of seed beads in white tones and silver right before me.

That's how the light butterfly came to life. I don't know if he was born from light or if he's bearing light, but I could easily spin a few fantasy stories around him.

Now don't worry, my dark side hasn't disappeared, actually I grabbed two of the black skulls right after. More wings, I'm afraid.
Who knows, though, what will come after those? Maybe another ripped up piece will talk to me and tell me something completely new!


The "Energy" bracelet

From time to time I have a look at the pieces in my storage boxes to decide what I want to do with them. There is a mix of new pieces, slightly older pieces, but there are also some really old pieces.
On my computer, some of those old pieces are in my "inactive" folder meaning they are waiting to be ripped up, changed, or donated if deemed worthy. Sometimes it's just a matter of not being able to decide.

The "Energy" cuff is from 2012, the early days of my bead looming.
I made it with a small fringe and from the moment I finished that, I wasn't really happy with it. Instead of doing something about it, though, I kept looking at the bracelet time and time again and putting it back into the drawer.
It was probably one of the first pieces that got put into the "inactive" folder. All I knew was that I didn't want to rip it up completely. I spent some time with creating the pattern and I am still strangely fascinated by it.
I don't remember what, if anything, had been the plan behind this pattern, maybe I just went overboard in BeadTool and couldn't stop myself.
A friend, however, said she saw bursts of energy in it, and that evoked an image of early horror movies in my mind - a strange technical device, built by a crazy scientist, sending forth rays of energy. To whom, to what, for what purpose, that will have to stay a secret.

Looking at it today, I thought that was probably the reason why the fringe didn't work for me. It didn't go together with that image.
So I finally cut it off, and the clean edges work much better, I think.

Why did it take me ten years to see that, you'd like to know?
I have no idea. Maybe the bracelet had enough energy by now to transfer some onto me? ;-)


I made a face ...

... and it has a big nose.
Before you judge my poor lady, let me tell you that I seem to have a thing for big noses. When drawing a face, the nose was always on the big side, when I played around with polymer clay faces, the nose was always big, and obviously I have the same tendency with needle felted faces.

Also you mustn't forget that this is my first attempt at needle felting a human head.
After staying away from my felting stuff (and my bead loom) since der Dekan moved in as a crazy kitten, I finally had this urge to stab something and release some of the feelings that have been building up over the last months. It's hard to stay happy and positive with everything that's going on in the world most of which influences everyone in one or the other way.
I'm not a violent person, but stabbing roving can help to calm down even if I know people who say the sound makes them crazy instead of calm. My cats don't seem to mind and der Dekan only tried a few times to steal my roving at first which was really not a surprise.

Back to the head.
Actually, it didn't even start out like a head, but like a big face cabochon, with a flat back. Then I added roving to turn it into a kind of wind creature, with full cheeks, blowing lips and all. The "wind hair" was so wild, however, that I tried to tame it at least a little and suddenly I had this parted hair with a little chignon on top. That looked very weird with the flat back, so I added more hair.
Just two sleeping cats next to me snoring softly, the sound of a needle poking into roving, and David Suchet as Poirot for the only background noise in the middle of the night was surprisingly calming.
So I kept adding colors - which I'm not very good at yet, also it made the nose even bigger - and finally something to put the head on (I was thinking feather boa, you may choose what you like) because it was obvious that it would never get a body.

To me the lady looks like an aging diva, a character actress, no doubt, who watches her old movies in her private home cinema - wait, we already had that in "Sunset Blvd." or the Columbo episode "Forgotten Lady", only those ladies didn't have quite as grandmotherly hairstyles ... but hey, maybe she was an early star on the stage, not the silver screen, and maybe she would have made a nice protagonist in an episode of "Alfred Hitchcock presents"?

Anyhow, if I ever get better at faces, I'll be sure to let you know ;-)


SilhouetteCat and the mermaid

No, they are not a couple even if the title makes it sound like that ;-) Although you never know if they have met under a full moon, SilhouetteCat sitting at the pier maybe, looking down on his friend who has come from the depth of the ocean to say hello? I wonder what kind of conversation they would have.

Let's start with SilhouetteCat.
If you have followed me for a while, you may know that he is one of my favorite HeatherCats and I have made several versions of him.
This one is my second bead embroidered version and the first one in color, all because I couldn't resist turning a shimmering checkerboard cab into a moon.
I hadn't planned a HeatherCat. My first thought had been a tree "holding" the full moon, but luckily I used a big piece of backing as if Mabel, my muse, had been whispering in my ear that a moon needs a cat ...
Once I had beaded the bezel for the moon and added some rows around it, I knew that it reminded me of Heather's SilhouetteCat.

So I added the black cat -  with the body changed a little because I didn't want him to reach up to the moon.
Now some stars. In bead looming, my night skies often have dots for the stars, but this moon was so big that I felt they needed to be bigger, too. I didn't have any cabs that would have worked, though, so I went with more circles (that's probably why people are reminded of Van Gogh's "Starry Night", but if you have a closer look, you see it's not really that similar and it was not my inspiration).
It was also fun to add the fringe. I still have tons of those dagger beads from when an old project fell through, and the color was perfect.

Then I was at the usual point, what kind of rope to use. Of course I thought of my beloved Herringbone, but neither the 4 bead nor the 6 bead rope appealed to me this time because the different blue tones had different sizes.
I remembered, though, that I had just got some faux suede ribbon and there were still a bunch of crimps from my early bead looming days, and indeed the braids looked much better.
Now I'm really happy how the whole piece turned out!

And the braids actually brought me to a WIP that has spent nine months in my infamous WIP drawer - my mermaid.
I hadn't even posted about her here because I thought she would be done much earlier, but I had had the same problem with the rope. Bead loomed strips didn't sit right, the Herringbone ropes didn't look right.

Luckily the other spools of faux suede that I got were a dark teal and a light blue which went perfectly with the colors I used in the mermaid's tail.
Actually, the first idea had been to make just a fish tail with all those sequins, but a tail by itself always looks so cut off, so instead this large mermaid started evolving, getting more and more hair and this big fish tail. It was fun ;-)

It's amazing how satisfying it is to finish a long time WIP because the right idea has finally come along and I'm very glad she made it out of that drawer that has proved to be the end of the line for some other pieces over the years.