Thursday, December 18, 2014

Knits!

Shawl, a three-month project, 2000x1000mm 

When I was on my sabbatical two years back, I began knitting intensely - I am a learning-by-doing for knitting and crochet. The numerous unpicking and re-knitting taught me many things not only about knitting/crochet but about myself. I am still the experiment-crazed type and I do learn from my mistakes.

While this is a very colorful garment, it's stockinette stitch (aha! simple enough!!) and I had used at least 15 different yarns for this project. Inspired by Kaffe Fassett, I thought the shawl was simple to knit and purl. Yeah, so I thought...Because of the many different yarns used, I had tons of tails to weave in. Let me tell you what, I truly hated the tail-weaving. It was tedious. It was trying. It was irritating. It was not fun at all. PERIOD. Of course, it would have been more intelligent to weave in the tails as soon as you finish a couple of rows and not wait till you have a nightmare lot of them screaming woohoo, weave us, weave us!!! at you.

Though, come to think of it, I can't say what's worse, unpicking because you dropped a stitch several rows before (which can't be picked up at all...) or weaving the tails in.

Stockinette stitch

Monday, December 1, 2014

Taking Shape...

Wire-woven pods

Empty pods, fresh water pearl-filled pods, Delica-woven pods
That's how big my pods are


As mentioned in my last blog, I'd share with you my wire-weaving - not sure if this is the right term to use? - if indeed, it is the wrong term or technique, please let me know!

I adore using dark annealed steel wire - I learned about this wire about a decade ago in the US and simply love using it. You can buy this in any hardware store there, but not in Germany. It took me ages to figure out where to purchase this wire here - nope, they don't sell it at the DIY hardware stores here at all - guess where, it's available with the jewellery making suppliers. Duh...I hadn't made the connection that that's the wire used to bind e.g. silver pieces together for soldering... Yeah, I was buying them in the US whenever I was there and carrying them back to Germany. Double duh...

I don't know if it is at all possible to solder this wire at all, so I make loops at the joints, which is not as sturdy as I like them to be. I "tie" these joints with waste wire as tight as I can without distorting the structure. I know that when I move onto using silver wire, I can solder them and not have to worry about anything shift during the weaving.

Right now, I'm using 1mm wire for the structure and 0.5mm to weave. I haven't figured out how much 0.5mm wire is need for the weaving so I cut a length that I can deal with (without it hitting my face ouch! each time I pull the wire through). I am learning to hide the ends and beginnings of where the waeving-wire stops. Wire stretches nicely and is a wonderfully forgiving material. It allows you to frog gracefully.

I've woven with seed beads (the Delicas from Miyuki are great to weave with) and I quite like the added texture it lends to the wire. I've filled one pod with fresh water pearls - my daughter says it looks very Christmas-y - hmm... I might have put in too many pearls. I do like the "empty" pods. 

I've tried out weaving cubes too but the structures (the little suckers...) do not like being bent into a cube during the weaving process. I, the greenhorn, reckon, the cube structure has to be fully constructed before the weaving can commence. As with anything else, the bigger the structure is, the easier it is to weave. However, I confess, there's the kick to making the smaller pods. They are cuter too.

What, you might like to know, do I want to make with these pods? Ahhh...ambitions dwell on a 18" or 20" neckpiece and matching bracelet out of it. Sobriety, on the other, recommends an easier task to accomplish, say, a pendant and a pair of earrings.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Four ingredients only for the perfect bread!


Baguette aka French Loaves, using sourdough ferment, whole meal flour and rye flour

I made my first loaf of bread more than 15 years back, adapting and using recipes from The Bread Book  by Linda Collister and Anthony Blake. At that time, we were living in Singapore and it was almost impossible to get most of the flours the authors had mentioned there. Most of the breads I tried to bake were not very successful since the flours were not available and  I gave up after a while.

After relocating to Germany at the end of 2001, we bought a bread making machine. Oh, that's tasty! At least that's what I thought at that time. I was pretty happy with the breads coming out that machine. I only had to throw in the ingredients, press the button and hey, the next thing you know, you've got this pretty cool looking and rather tasty bread. Then, the excitement dwindled away and yup, we stopped using the bread machine and went back to buying bread from the bakers. It was an easy option.

About three years ago - that must be that magical moment in my life as I became very wary of what the industry is producing and selling to us (and I'm not just talking about bread, mind you) and aware of the by-products which you and I don't exactly need to consume. So, that's when I began to look into baking breads again, plus what could be better than living in Germany where I can get all kinds of flours especially whole meal types?! That's how I realised that to make bread, you only need four ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast - nothing else. Look at the ingredients listed on the bread labels sold, it contains stuff you certainly can't pronounce or need.

At this time, I still had The Bread Book  on my book shelf and found the flours in the book were are not quite the same as what is sold in the supermarkets and natural stores here in Germany. I wasn't satisfied with the techniques in the book too - please note, the techniques just didn't work for me, not that they are right or wrong. I went through a couple of bread books till I came across Richard Bertinet's Dough: Simple Contemporary Bread and wow, I was blown away with the techniques (very unusual way of preparing your dough by lifting and folding it and boy does one develop arm muscles quick!) and most of all, the taste of the bread!!

Anyway, his second book Crust was my introduction to sourdough. I can't say I like all of his recipes in his books, but like all recipe books, you get the basic idea and you experiment, note down your ingredients. You learn to "read" your dough and the daily weather conditions affect whether you add room temperature or slightly warmer or cooler water to your flours.

I have two bread books by two very passionate German hobbyist bread makers, Rustikale Brot aus deutschen Landen by Gerhard Kellner and just this week, my copy of  Brotbackbuch Nr 1 (2nd edition) by Lutz Geißler arrived. I am most excited to dive into Mr Geißler's book as I have heard his recipes are fabulous.

And you know what the best thing is? No matter how your bread turns out looking, homemade bread always taste good!!


Sourdough bread with whole meal flour, whole meal rye and rye flour

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Broken Rhythm...


I have decided to stop making glass beads altogether. Was it a difficult decision to make? Yes and no. Yes, because I have spent so much on my equipment and materials plus it was to supplement my income from home. No, because I no longer can concentrate on making glass beads. Why? Read on...

Early this year, my mother met with an accident and suffered a brain trauma, which has left her right side paralysed and she is bed bound . I have flown home several times this year to help out my dad and mum; it's taken a toll on me not just physically but mentally too. The flight between Singapore and Germany is very tedious - I'm no longer a young buckaroo. Mum is taken care of at home, my dad has employed a housekeeper to help out who is also mum's caregiver at the same time. So, long story short, it's been difficult for me to even sit down to melt any glass rods into beads, given my mum's worrying condition. Mum is 78 and dad is 80 - perhaps you get the picture as to why I can't concentrate on making any glass beads.

I have however began to wire-work, nothing fancy in the makings, mainly working with steel annealed wire presently till I get the hang of things before I move on to using sterling and fine silver. I'm afraid I have no pictures for this blog on my wire-work as this is a really spontaneous blog update. Bear with me, I shall have some taken for my next blog update.

In the meantime, may I share some photos of Jenny, my sweet Dackel, with you? She's 2½ years old now. Time sure flies by fast.

Hoping for that morsel of leftovers

Runaway Bride?



Jenny at the Elbe 

Man, it's warm today...






Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Stuck On Lentils...

No, not the edible lentils but the lentil-shaped beads!! I'm sure most of us have that incurable habit of indulging excessively and never tire of something that latches onto our fancies. Yes, I'm stuck on making larger lentil-shaped focal beads at the moment - what's large to me may be small to another or vice-versa. These beads measure about 30mm across - so, is it large to you or maybe I should consider these as medium-sized, eh?

Not only am I hooked on lentil-shaped beads, I'm also enjoying using black and light-ivory glass. The first two images are actually two different beads; ahhh...another can't-get-tired-of-or-enough-of-it motif...See, three things of incurable excessive indulgence, the list goes on.

The gathering of the black glass is perhaps the part that I least enjoy - it could take anywhere from 10-20 minutes (or more) to gather a substantial glob of glass on your mandrel before what I consider as large enough. Really, you can't cut corners with the gathering as when you think you can get away with slightly less of a glob, when you shape the glass into a lentil, you find that it's lob-sided and then, piling on the glass on the side (or both sides!) is, to me, even more tedious than gathering the glob in the first place.

Have a great week and hope you'll enjoy looking at my lentils!!






Thursday, September 4, 2014

Where have I been to?

Ever have been down that road when one ever so significant event changes your life totally? This year began with a family emergency and it's affected my entire life. I still have a nasty mess on my hands but you know what, I have to move on - if not a lot, then at least just a little - to keep myself sane. I am trying my best to continue working where I last left off with my glass beads, my dog and of course my family.

Anyway, it's been difficult trying to concentrate on making beads (or updating my blog) till I came to terms with the emergency situation recently. Once that happened, I found myself able to concentrate better at the torch. And yes, I'm ready to update my blog regularly too.

I admit, I no longer torch as many crazy hours as before - too many things to do besides torching. I  started to crochet and knit - both self-taught - during the sabbatical period. Now, I'm working on a crochet flower blanket. Perhaps when the blanket has reached a substantial size, I'll post it on my blog.

Meantime, stay healthy and happy and hey, say something beautiful to your loved ones.











Monday, February 3, 2014

Bottled Salad or Salad-In-A-Jar

Salad-in-a-jar, an idea that I saw on the internet
A couple of weeks ago, someone posted on Facebook about "Salads-in-a-jar" which I immediately began making for my husband and me - I thought it is a fabulous idea which has been proven by many that it stays crisp and fresh for the entire week. Ever since our daughters have moved out, it has been less motivating to cook for myself especially at lunchtime. My husband is at the office and I found it too tedious to cook for one. You know, there is always a minimum amount of work that is involved in cooking, whether you cook for one or for four persons. I'd skip lunch and we all know that isn't healthy and snacked instead (which again we know it's not healthy at all).

Anyway, I am so delighted with the results - the greens stayed absolutely crisp and fresh right to last jar of salad on the 5th/6th day - and hope to encourage many others to try out this incredible healthy eating habit. Sure, it's a lot of work for the prepping day, but that's just it, only one day of the week is used for prepping. Plus, you can add all kinds of cooked food into your salads as well which usually takes little effort to say grill a small piece of fish in the oven on the day itself.

This week, my salads contain wild rice and cooked potatoes - let me tell you, I was full with it. It is a complete meal when you add these two ingredients to your salads. I use a 500ml or pint sized preserving jar.

Anyway let's move on to some new glass cabochon toppers I just made. Here are three new ones, mind you they are getting larger each time I make them. I like them large - big is beautiful! And, I am stuck on this light transparent aqua colour too...sigh...you ever get stuck on a particular set of colours and never want to use anything else for weeks without end? Oh well, I guess I will have to figure out another set of colours that will become my passion for the next batch of cabochons.


Blue Minimalist on Etsy

Kornblume II on Etsy soon...

Ice Blue on Etsy


Have a great week!!


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Cover Girl!

I'm most delighted to add that I've made it to the cover page of Creative Life Magazine (e-publication), their new year's edition.

My recent interview with Creative Life Magazine (e-publication) is available to the general public to read till the end of February 2014 - after which it becomes only available to subscribed members only. Here is the link:

http://issuu.com/beclouise/docs/clm0002_issue_2_final?e=6458904/621203

Happy Reading and till the next blog, stay clean and good!




New Colours - Are They Enticing?

Yup, still dotting around...Perhaps this time with my new phase of lampwork, I might concentrate on working designs with dots and perhaps less with stringer designs. Though, who knows, I might just mosey back to stringer work the next time I turn on my torch. Here are a couple of my interchangeable glass cabochon toppers (suitable for the RingDing Systems) - they all have insert nuts fused onto the glass on the reverse sides. Most of them are available on Etsy - please find my link on the right-side of this blog to view the Etsy items.

So, am I one of those who keep falling in love with new glass colours? Indeed when I first started lampworking, I couldn't wait to get my hands on new colours or colours which other lampworkers were hotly discussing about. Ahhh, we grow wiser as we age...nowadays I tend to stick with what I absolutely favour and not get too hot or crazy about "new" glass rods. Does that mean I have become boring? Now, that's something to ponder on, isn't it?!

No, I don't think I consider myself boring (hahaha!!!). I find it a challenge to use the colours I have on hand to come up with new colour combinations and make it work. Make "old" into "new". Recycle the colour combinations and come up with new or unimaginable combinations. Designs are far interesting to create than buying new colours (glass rods) any old day!