Wrapping Things Up

…Or should I say warping things up?  ;)

 

It’s hard to believe that it’s only been four weeks since my little adventure with Mirrix first began. Time really does fly by. You know how when, if you’re lucky, you meet someone for the first time and really hit it off? You quickly become fast friends, cherish the time spent and can’t wait to see them again. Well that’s how it is with my Mirrix loom. I probably shouldn’t admit wanting to get up out of bed in the middle of the night -I do have insomnia- and start weaving, should I? 

                                                       Two bracelets down, one to go 

As I have mentioned, I was initially reluctant to accept the offer to blog for the Social Market for a Craftsy Course because of my lack of weaving skills. Having already purchased the class, I knew what I would be facing. Initially the lessons seemed to blend into each other and the many little warping and weaving details seemed overwhelming. And with so many weavers far more experienced than myself, what could I possibly have to offer? And when would I even find the time? Besides the actual weaving, there’s the writing part and we all know how difficult that can be.

                                                      Notice my homemade heddles?  

Well I can safely say that all my fears and reluctance melted away upon receiving my package from Mirrix. The loom itself is so UN-intimidating and user friendly, and the fibers just seemed to talk to me as I knew they would. I dove in head first and haven’t look back since. My family has grown quite accustomed to Mom sitting at her loom ignoring everyone around her. (Needless to say, they’re not as fond of Mirrix as I am.) 

 

Each Craftsy lesson is so carefully laid out and slowly builds upon the knowledge learned in the previous one. Claudia is a superb teacher with a wonderful dry sense of humor. (Have you noticed?) And the finished projects, are they ever stunning. (Random note: in my day job I have occasion to spend time with some rather famous knitters. Last week, I was complimented by both Debbie Bliss -herself- and separately, Louisa Harding, on the Bead and Tapestry Cuff bracelet that I was wearing. When I took it off and told them I had made it, they were even more impressed. Fashion mavens both and definitely arbiters of good taste when it comes to fiber. Maybe they should be taking the Craftsy class, eh?)
As I have now completed all twelve sections of the class and woven every project, my blogging job is done. Claudia and Elena have kindly invited me to stay on to blog about some future projects so it is not goodbye as yet. I wish to thank all of you for bothering to read this at all and for all the warmth and encouragement you’ve shown. Truly, it would not have been nearly as enjoyable without all of your wonderful support.

 

Until we talk again soon, happy weaving!
xxx, Karen

Look Ma, No Warp Ends!

After previewing this lesson, I was actually a little nervous about getting started. Just when I was beginning to feel confident with the ease of bead weaving in the previous lessons, I would now have to actually do something drastically different. Those innocent-looking paper clips and tex-solv cord seemed more than just a little intimidating. Well, fear not. I’m here to tell you that like everything else so far in this course, the learning curve is swift and before long I was on my way.
 
 
 
I will admit to making good use of the thirty second replay button that Craftsyoffers. After several replays, I finally realized that TWO lengths of tex-solv were necessary. Duh! (This was also a good time to actually READ the course material provided.) Getting all the new cords adjusted and evened  out was a bit of a challenge but once the paper clips were in place, the warping was surprisingly painless. I’ve since watched my fellow blogger Noreen’s excellent video tutorial where she uses S-hooks in lieu of the paper clips. (http://tottietalkscrafts.com/2012/06/22/a-slightly-different-approach-to-the-no-warp-ends-on-the-mirrix/). I may try that next as my biggest difficulty was figuring out which direction to actually place the paper clips. Again, not a huge problem but using the S-hooks will eliminate that confusion. As Claudia promised, the actual weaving part is lightening fast and in no time flat, I had completed another beautiful fully beaded cuff.


Now who doesn’t love the final result? Really…no warp ends to deal with! This is just genius, don’t you think? The strength that using the wire warps is a bonus as it gives a very professional look. I also love having the option of choosing how to finish the bracelet with either the peyote clasp or by using an unusual or vintage button as I did. How cool!
 
Off to the hardware store to purchase S-hooks. I may never use real warps again.
 
xxx, Karen 

 

 

Magnatamas, Tilas & Silk, Oh My… Plus A Quick Tip

I’m really cooking now. Finished the latest Affinity Bracelet in under thirty minutes and that includes warping! They’re just so easy. Using the no. 8 beads again makes bead weaving a breeze. There’s plenty of room to squeeze a needle and thread through without nasty mishaps like catching warps. The tilas are fun and aptly named- they resemble little rows of tiles. My favorites though are the magnatamas-they look like little pudgy off-centered donuts. Love ‘em. Although I’ve seen them at the bead shop before, I now intend to purchase lots more and play around with design possibilities. Anybody know why they’re named such? Just curious.
What I’m really excited about though is the ability perhaps to teach you all something…me teaching you, for a change. Many weavers might already be familiar with “fringe twisters” but in case there are some newbies who are not, read on.
3 Clip Fringe Twister
These magical little thingies are a life saver when you need to make lots of fringe. I first spotted them at the many sheep and wool festivals that I attend. Again, I guess they’re more of a fiber thing. Smart knitters use them regularly to assist in the tedious chore of finishing the fringe at the end of scarves. The most popular ones I believe are made by Leclerc although there are other brands. (http://www.leclerclooms.com/twister.htm). They come in various sizes and run about $25 depending on the size. Trust me, they’re worth every nickel. The one shown here is designed to make a three-strand fringe however if you only employ only two clips, as I do here, you can use it for the two-strand fringe necessary for this bracelet.

The how-to? Simply insert each strand of fringe into its own alligator clip. Turn the handle in the same direction as the twist in the thread/yarn. Count you turns until you’ve reached the desired crimp. Next you must place all strands into the same clip and turn in the handle in the opposite direction. Again, you should count the revolutions to maintain consistency between all fringes. When the twist in the resulting rope is to your liking release the strands while holding the ends together and knot. That’s it. (It takes longer to explain than actually do).



Perfect fringe, every time!



What’s wonderful about this tool is that you get tight consistent fringe every time. Although I was initially unsure if it would work on such a tiny scale as these bracelets, I was thrilled to learn that it works perfectly. No more twisting delicate fibers between your fingers or accidentally letting go. It’s really almost hands free and takes a fraction of the time as traditional twisting by hand.
(Note to Claudia & Elena: you should stock these babies. Very useful).
Off to the beach again. When you live on Long Island, you go to the beach. And haven’t you heard? Summer’s almost over. (sniffle sniffle)
xxx, Karen  

Bead Weaving: A Love-Hate Relationship

Craftsy Class 5: Affinity Bracelet Variations
 


The second Affinity Bracelet variation uses 4mm crystals & hex-cut beads. Besides being entirely bead woven, it employs the technique of substituting a larger bead for two smaller ones in specific rows. As Claudia explains, one can always replace any two smaller beads with a larger one if the larger one is exactly twice as long and wide as the two smaller ones. Pretty cool concept if you think about it and it opens up a world of creative interpretation using a variety of beads. Of course now I can imagine obsessively trying to measure all kinds of itsy bitsy roll-y beads. (Thanks, Claudia). Then again, I suppose I can just eyeball them and hope for the best which is really much more my usual m.o. anyway. 

I admit to starting this project with a little trepidation. With all due respect to the fabulous bead weavers reading this (you know who you are. I won’t mention my fellow blogger, Brenda’s name here), I’m just not a big fan…not for myself, at least. Lots of blinding work weaving with microscopic beads and where’s the fiber anyway? By know you must know that I always need my beautiful fibers. For this reason, I predict that I will be more of a tapestry girl. I can’t wait to begin the Tapestry Cuff but I really must complete the lessons in their proper order and that one, sadly, is last.


Several missteps thwarted my initial attempts. I kept splitting the bead thread and piercing (or missing entirely) the warps. Very frustrating. The ability to count to six posed a problem as well. (Hey it was after 10PM when I started…first mistake). The other thing I learned about bead weaving is that you need amazingly good light. In fact, more light than I have in my entire house- at least at that late hour. Note to self: must save these projects for daylight hours only or suffer the consequences. Still, I forged ahead…straight through David Letterman. As Dave said goodnight, so did I. With a mere 16 bleary-eyed rows completed, I called it quits. “G’night folks,” as Dave says. Yeah, I’ll say.



Stealing some time from my lunch break the following day (who needs to eat anyway? Not me lately…but that’s an entirely different blog post topic), I took my loom outside and was able to finally make some serious progress. I really love how the beads line up in this pattern and my choice of lime green silk warp matches my green 4mm beads to perfection. (Almost like I planned it but we know better). The four row pattern repeat, as we knitters would call it, is an easy one to remember and after a short while comes quite naturally.



I find that the near-instant results seen in these bracelets are incredibly gratifying. Within a very short period of time, you’ve completed another little work of art. Fabulous!

As I’m beginning to expect from Mirrix, this bracelet has turned out to be another winner. This really is becoming addicting.

xxx, Karen

Gold, Gold Everywhere!

Craftsy Class 4: Gold Thread & Hex Bead Bracelet
If I thought I loved the hand painted silk floss introduced in Class 3, that was before I discovered this gold plated “wonder thread” in Class 4. What IS this fabulous stuff? Claudia describes it as a silk base with real gold fused to it. Whatever it is, it weaves up fabulously and really does in fact look like the real thing. That’s the good news. The bad news: Don’t let this happen to you:
Gold Thread…Before



Gold Thread…After



Really, I should have known better. After all the various yarns I’ve wound, skeined, unwound, untangled, got-so-frustrated-and-thrown-away, over the course of so many years, you’d think I would have done a better job with this one. And it’s not that I wasn’t prepared. “It’s got a mind of its own,” Claudia warns. Yep, it sure does. (It’s like letting a tightly wound spring out of a small box). And it surely is one of the finest threads I’ve ever encountered- it’s nearly invisible. So now I’m warning YOU: take your time and be patient with this stuff because it is all so worth it. Once you do get it wound and threaded on the needle, it’s a breeze to weave with. In fact it practically weaves itself. And it is also very forgiving as it fills itself in almost magically. Just be sure to keep those six plies together. As far as the hex beads are concerned, after using the larger size 8s for the Affinity Bracelets, these smaller beads seem a bit more challenging but you’ll see that it’s nothing unmanageable. Of course, I had to add my own personal spin to the finished product by adding a little bit of purple/pink mulberry silk between the gold and the beads. I kind of like it, what do you think?  



The finished bracelet



Weaving at the beach…the best of all possible worlds!



So, Class 4…Just stay calm, keep at it and you’ll get a truly beautiful result. And be prepared for lots of requests from friends for this one. It’s a stunner!
Now onto Class 5. See you there.
xxx, Karen

Mirrix Goes to Montauk

As it happens, my Mirrix loom arrived the day prior to our little holiday in Montauk. (I know you’ve heard of Montauk Point. You know, at the very tip of Long Island, NY?)  Well, I couldn’t leave her home alone, now could I? Certainly not with all that fabulous fiber haunting me from afar. So, unbeknownst to the family, I sneakily stuffed her into yet another canvas bag and she made the two hour trip to the beach. Here she is on the deck overlooking the Atlantic Ocean looking rather majestic, don’t you think?

Craftsy Class: Introduction & Looms

Claudia’s introduction, besides doing a great job of whetting one’s appetite, speaks for itself. Not much need for comment, I believe. The second “lesson” concerning various looms is significant particularly if you are not yet fortunate enough to own a Mirrix. (Notice I say yet. Don’t worry, you will). Prior to receiving the Mirrix, I fiddled with both a $10 craft-store seed bead loom as well as my Cricket, both with excellent results. They really do weave beautiful bracelets. However, tensioning problems as well as awkward warping renders them less than perfect. Learning to warp a Mirrix is a snap and the tensioning is a dream. I think the Volkswagen/ Mercedes analogy applies here; there’s simply no comparison. If you can, by all means, get a Mirrix!
  
Craftsy Class Lesson: The Silk and Bead Affinity Bracelet

I have a thing for silk… always have. It is by far my favorite fiber to work with, be it knitting, crochet, sewing or weaving. I love the tiny little crunch it makes when you fondle it which I confess I do. The vibrant colors that Claudia has created make all the difference in the final product, I can assure you. Not wanting to waste the precious silk, I practiced my first few Affinity Bracelets using lesser fibers- some pedestrian embroidery floss and even some commercially dyed silk floss. I can tell you that they can’t compare to the subtle color variations of Mirrix hand painted silk. (Pssst, Claudia, have you considered offering a silk dyeing workshop? Hint hint.)

I wish I could write about some problem or difficulty that I encountered while attempting to weave but honestly, it is so simple and enjoyable that I cannot find anything to critique. Ok, my selvedges are less than perfect and I probably could use a pair of magnifying glasses to thread that blasted bead needle but that’s about it. Come to think of it, I’m not crazy about that peyote stitch yet either but I’m sure that will improve with more experience. Heaven knows, I’ve got a long way to go.

When one chooses to forego an afternoon at the beach in order to stay back to weave, I think that’s really saying something. Here are my results. Whaddaya think? Not bad, eh.

xxx, Karen

Hello, Gorgeous!


For those of you too young to remember, this is precisely what Barbra Streisand uttered upon being handed her first Oscar statuette after winning the Academy Award for Best Actress. (I won’t embarrass myself by revealing the year…perhaps you remember? Don’t worry, I won’t tell.)


Whatever does this have to do with weaving, you might ask? Well, if you’ve ever had the joy of setting eyes upon your first Mirrix loom, this will pretty much be your response. It was surely mine last evening when I opened my glorious and much-anticipated package from Mirrix. And although I’ve certainly seen enough photos and videos of them, to hold a Mirrix Loom in my very own hands is quite a different experience. Trust me, they’re absolutely gorgeous.

To back up a little…I must admit to my surprise upon learning that I had won the Social Market for a Craftsy Class contest. After all, I’m certainly not much of a weaver. And although I’ve woven a fair share of some lovely yet rather simple items on my Ashford and Cricket rigid heddle looms and even on a ginormous 7 foot triangle loom, until recently I had never heard of Mirrix Looms. I am however a Very…Serious…Knitter, having owned two different yarn shops over the last twenty years. During this time, I have taught untold numbers of classes to countless students of all levels and have blogged about the trials and tribulations of owning one’s own knitting shop. Just two years ago, after selling my most recent beloved yet truly exhausting yarn shop, I was fortunate to land my dream job as the Marketing Manager at Knitting Fever. Perhaps you’ve heard of us? We are the nation’s largest importer and distributor of many fine yarn brands including Noro, Katia and Debbie Bliss. In this position, not only do I design knitting patterns but I often get to help develop the actual new yarns that will be brought to market each season. Very exciting stuff, I can assure you. So, if there is anything I do know fairly well, it is fiber.

Enter Claudia’s Craftsy class, Bead & Tapestry Cuffs. Upon first discovering it, it appealed to me immediately. Naturally, I was captivated by the unique fibers used in the Affinity Bracelets and of course, the magnificent Bead & Tapestry Cuff. Just one quick glance at the extravagant materials shown in the class promo, I knew I was hooked. Hand-dyed silk, golden threads and beads of all sizes and shapes. (Be still, my beating heart!) But I am getting ahead of myself…I must first finish opening this fabulous Mirrix package because there are LOTS more goodies in here to unearth. Stay with me while we embark on a fascinating, fiber-filled weaving adventure, won’t you?                        

 xxx, Karen



Crafty Class Has Launched

It’s here.  In the middle of April Elena and I traveled to Denver for five days.  Claudia spent three days behind a camera talking and moving her hands around a loom to demonstrate the weaving of a bunch of projects on the Mirrix Loom (primarily . . . although she (I. . . why am I talking in the third person) since there was a brief demonstration on a hand made loom and a rigid heddle loom).  Getting ready for it was hard.  Had to have everything in Denver in advance for the filming.  Couldn’t just run back to my studio to pick up some forgotten loom or material.  I was very stressed.  The filming itself was fun although hard.  I am afraid to watch the whole thing all the way through.  That is your job.

So What do you get for your $29.99?  A lot.  You get to watch six hours of instruction.  If you can stand watching me for six hours, this is a good thing.  I show you how to make nine bracelets!  Two tapestry/bead cuff bracelets; two No Warps to Weave in Bracelets; Five affinity bracelets.  The course is designed to flow so that you keep piling on skills.  The goal is for you to move into your own territory . . . take the skills and concepts you’ve learned and create your own masterpieces.

I think it’s a great class for both beginners and those who haven’t tried these projects yet and are ready for something new.

So how does this format work? It’s a great format combining the best of a real in-person workshop with the best of video.  First of all, it’s longer than any video you’d ever find.  Secondly, you can access it on the Craftsy site any time you want.  There is a forum for asking your questions and I will get on a million times a day to check for these questions and answer them.  There is also a place for you to post your projects.  The whole thing is very interactive and community like and you can keep interacting for as long as I am still hanging out on this planet.

And even better: there is a special Craftsy/Mirrix store where you can buy some really amazing kits created just for the show at really, really great prices.  Those same kits will not be in our regular store.  The kits are cheaper when you buy all three and even cheaper when bought with a loom.

So sign up for a lifetime (literally) adventure in the world of Mirrix: craftsy

Craftsy

It was a year ago next month that we posted our first project to the then brand-new website Craftsy. We watched as they grew from a simple place to post projects to a great resource for patterns, instructional videos and inspiration. We connected with them fairly early on and eventually planned an online instructional course that we’ve been shooting this week!

Claudia, filming!
The course will be sold on Craftsy and is more detailed than anything we’ve done before. It covers aspects of tapestry, bead weaving and combining the two and will presented on the fantastic Craftsy platform, allowing students to ask questions and share their work online!
We had a lot of fun shooting. The people at Craftsy are so incredibly nice and fun and funny too.

Claudia’s hair and makeup was done by the fabulous Danica. Check out her website: http://danicajardien.com/

Expect this course to be available in the next month or so. Thanks to everyone at Craftsy and remember to check out their website at www.craftsy.com.

—-

UPDATE:

You can view Claudia’s Craftsy Class Here