Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Crochet Hooks, Captive Rings

Closer come the holidays, and I've been busy as a little bee, making new crochet hooks, thimbles, nostepindes, (ball winders), needle/toothpick cases, and all manner of lovely things! Check out my selection on eBay and Etsy. (There's still time to ship for Christmas!)

Some of these are on eBay right now!

One of my favorite types of hooks to create is one with captive rings. What are captive rings??? These are doughtnut-shaped pieces of wood that are turned in place, spin on a shaft, not allowed to slide off the piece.

In short, they're lots of fun, as you can gleefully twiddle and spin them with your fingers, gloriously ignoring your work in progress!

How are they made?

Step 1: Cut one or several small "beads" in the finial of the piece. (Make sure to make it far enough off the end so that the hand doesn't touch them when used -- the rings could break).

Step 2: Grind a special tool from a hacksaw blade, in essence a tiny parting tool, and cut into the side of the beads at a 45' or shallower angle, but don't part all the way through.

Step 3: Make sure you didn't "free" the rings in Step 2! Sand and finish the rings as you would the rest of the piece.

Step 4: Make additional cuts with the tiny captured ring tool, carefully so that you do not mar the finish on the surface, and part free.

Step 5: This is the tricky bit -- make cuts around and underneath the rings to give them room to wiggle and spin. Use your tiny parting tool, and a 1/16" parting tool to liberate some more wood chips.

Step 6: Check for breakage. Inevitably a ring or two will break, but don't despair, more practice and altering your angle of approach will see success. Always start more rings than you need in Step 1. Fractured rings may benefit from a drop of CA glue, but it's generally better to break off the imperfect ones, since sanding the join is difficult at best.

Step 7: As a measure against future mishap, turn a pretty shape along the shaft, underneath the rings by moving them to either side. (See why below.)

Step 8: Turn either end abutting the ring shaft, but keep the diameter large enough that the rings won't slide off the piece. (This is very important to the "captured" aspect!)

Step 8: Sand and finish your piece as usual.

A completed piece!

In reference to Step 7 above: I once went to a show in which I was demonstrating turning during the day time, and consequently was unable to watch my items on the table behind me. One hook I'd set out had 4 captured rings... and by the end of the day there was only one left! Yes, someone had maliciously broken them...

The point of this story is... Turn a pretty section underneath so that in case of such mishaps, the piece will still be decorous enough to appeal. (A straight, cylindrical section where there is supposed to be decoration, is rather dreadful looking...)

This technique, of course, can be used on any variety of spindlework, especially small items like stick pens, hair sticks, crochet hooks, fine finials, bottlestoppers, etc. One can also use this technique for making rings on the outside of bowls with colored-graining. You won't want the ring to spin freely, just move it enough so that the grain pattern is shifted slightly, and put a dab of glue to stick it in place. (Try this technique on a sapwood/heartwood bowl, and shift the ring so that dark is on light, and vice versa).

Have fun with it!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thimbles & Posting Day

New crochet hooks posted on eBay tonight! (And check out the brand new THIMBLES on eBay and Etsy -- great stocking stuffers!)

Guess what... (you probably already did, based on what I just wrote,) ...but... I have now added Thimbles to my collection of fiber arts tools! Not only that, but I've recently acquired NEW colorways in the dyed hardwoods, and they make exquisite thimbles and crochet hooks.

How exactly is a thimble made? First, I cut a block of wood to size, carefully on the bandsaw. I then mount in the chuck on the lathe, and hollow out the center with a specially-shaped drill bit.

I then re-mount the block on a tapered form, (a jam chuck for all the woodturners out there), and turn the final shape, removing the tail support, and carefully cutting the rings on the top side. (If you don't do it carefully, (and make sure you use italics), the piece is liable to jump off of the lathe and end up who-knows-where. (Don't ask me how I know this... keep your tools sharp!)

One also must make sure the walls of the thimble are the perfect thickness, and that the piece doesn't crack while on the jam chuck. The tail-stock must not be over-tightened, (again, cracks may happen). Critically , I cut the grooves in the top deep enough to support a needle -- after all, these are usable, functional tools, and must serve their purpose.

The inside is left unfinished, providing for superior grip-ability, and the outside is polished to a high shine!

Shape-wise, I chose a moderne design, opting out of over-ornamentation, going with a sleek look. (They look quite good on! (See below))

These thimbles make a lovely and fun addition to your collection of needle-working notions, and are perfect gifts for yourself, and friends who like to quilt, do needlepoint, sewing, embroidery, etc. (Even crocheters and knitters may need them as they tuck in the tail-ends of their yarn!)

Thimbles, are of course, an excellent way of helping push needles through difficult situations!

Enjoy the glorious colors! See my shops on eBay and Etsy for my new thimbles.


P.S. And please don't hesitate to ask if you need more details -- whether you are a woodturner or a needleworker I'm happy to help. E-mail me at

Monday, September 27, 2010

Last Harvest...

... well, one of the last anyway. An early frost in the beginning of September forced us to pick nearly all of our tomatoes as the leaves had withered in the cold. Same with the cucumbers and cantaloupes...

BUT -- and forgive my inattention to writing about the garden during the summer -- we had an almost miraculous harvest during the entire aestival season! Cucumbers grew with zeal, sending out runners and producing buds and yellow flowers like wild! And under that canopy of shade leaves, fruits grew by the DOZENS to fill our eager pantry!

Snowpeas attended trellises, and we made two complete harvests before the plants had exhausted themselves. Green onions grew from the onion sets, and were so delicious that we relied on their steady production for our daily dishes! (It's amazing how much tastier they were, fresh from the garden, than from the grocery store...) Our persistent "deforestation" of the onion groves will probably prevent any large onions from appearing, but it was worth it!

Our chard continues to produce, and we have enough frozen now to last in making quiches through the winter! The parsley survived too -- even through the plague of grasshoppers that descended upon us mid-season, (which destroyed the dill entirely!). The turnips are still growing beautifully and the beets as well.

At last we come to the end of the growing season -- it is always short here in Wyoming. I'm amazed we grew anything at all -- the soil is poor and hard as concrete, and the wind blows persistently. However, with a few loads of manure and compost and daily watering, our garden thrived, giving us glorious produce that we could enjoy.

And while tending a garden didn't necessarily save us any money from a dollar-per-hour standpoint, (I really should have been making crochet hooks), we ate naturally-grown organic vegetables and fruits that were much tastier than store-bought, (no doubt because of the true ripeness and farm-to-store travel time). We also ate foods that we probably wouldn't have purchased at the store -- turnips, (which are new to us this year), chard, and more cucumbers and beets than we would have bought on a regular basis.

It was an interesting experience, though trying at times. I certainly learned quite a bit about organization in a growing field, and what I would alter in next year's garden plan. E.g.: Forty tomato plants is probably too many for two people to eat from... (though it works well for sharing with good friends!), and eating cucumbers three times a day due to overproduction can be a singular experience..., and green onions are so fresh and vibrant picked from the garden we should plant TONS more next year..., and Bright Lights (Swiss) chard is the most loyal, productive plant I've ever seen!

A work-intensive, but very productive summer journey!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Shop Tour

Greeting everyone!
Yesterday I was so busy getting ready for my shop tour that I didn't get to post the crochet hooks I promised! (But they'll be up tonight on eBay, and some tomorrow as well!)

This morning, beginning at 11:00 I hosted a shop tour at my home. Even though the weather was a bit misty and cool about 11 people came from as far away as Denver, Estes Park, Fort Collins, and Nebraska! I showed off my lathes, (of course!), all five of them, including my two production minis and my new Stubby.

I began right away with my presentation on using a platform to grind and sharpen woodturning tools, talking about the various angles used on tools, and reasons for them, as well as powdered metal tools and the grinding wheels I use to sharpen them. I showed sharpening techniques for bowl, spindle, and detail gouges, scrapers, as well as how to add a negative rake to any scraper.

Of course, first up I was presented with a challenge! Our turning colleague from Nebraska brought me a old Rude Osolnik tool, which I can only describe as a skew with a flute. The bottom of the tool was square stock, like a skew, yet the top-side had a flute, requiring a curved cutting edge. It was something of a challenge to sharpen, requiring some freehand work, as well as the balance a grinder platform provided.

Everyone got a chance to sharpen tools if they desired, and I think we all had a great time! As an encore performance, by request, I demonstrated making a crochet hook from Canarywood with a right-hand twist! (Thank you Stuart Mortimer for your inspiration!)

By afternoon, the sun came out and warmed up the shop a bit; everyone was having such a lovely time that we went long past my estimated finish time of 1:00, ending at about ten 'til two.

Thank you everyone for coming!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

2010 Rocky Mountain Woodturning Symposium

Well, Turning Season is over for the year...

What's "Turning Season?" It's a term I use to describe the period of the year that encompasses some of the most special events in woodturning. Turning Season begins in May with the incredible Utah Woodturning Symposium. (I must admit to this event being my favorite of all -- the camaraderie and family atmosphere is truly unique and makes it such a lovely gathering).

June brings the annual AAW National Symposium, a huge gathering of turners from around the world, a veritable cornucopia of color and delight! We are given a bit of time to "relax," (meaning "make more work and prepare new presentations"), and then comes the Rocky Mountain Woodturning Symposium (RMWT), which is just up the street -- our local event that draws a wide variety of both local and world-renowned turners.

This year, September was a veritable odyssey of loveliness! The journey began in the first week when the wonderful Stuart Mortimer came to demonstrate for our turning club. Wow! He's an absolute dynamo! He's an incredibly fast turner, and creates the most gorgeous twist-work, (and is a master of the skew)! Stuart also gave an all-day demonstration + evening presentation at our Denver club the next Tuesday, (and was a major demonstrator at the Symposium).

I had the distinct and glorious pleasure of being able to take his class on Friday, the 10th. I have to say that Stuart is an absolutely incredible teacher! He is simply amazing! The photo to the left is of the goblet I created in Stuart's class: Osage Orange, unsanded, unfinished.

Stuart demonstrated all manner of twist-work, including twisted hollow forms, goblets, and boxes, twisted finials, pigtail and pig's-ear finials, open and laminated twists, and also creating hollow forms with light as the "calipers."

I am in awe of Stuart Mortimer -- his quick turning technique, the ease in which he makes cuts and his friendly and sharing demeanor! (If you are ever have an opportunity to take his class -- DO NOT hesitate -- sign up right away!)

The RMWT Symposium was just wonderful! There is something special about a smaller symposium -- you can meet people that you never thought you would. On occasion, at the larger events, I've wanted to talk to presenters but there were so many people around and so little time between rotations that I often wasn't able to introduce myself. No so with a smaller event -- not only was there plenty of time, the smaller venue allowed me to "run into" folks everywhere I went!

The photo on the right is of AAW President Tom Wirsing. He was one of two representatives of the AAW this year to visit our symposium, and spoke briefly at our Opening Ceremonies on Saturday morning. I was thrilled to be able to meet all of our wonderful demonstrators: Jimmy Clewes, David Nittmann, David Marks, James McClure, Sam Angelo, and Larry Fox, and of course, the inimitable Stuart Mortimer.

I was "on stage" first thing Saturday morning, and presented "Skew-less Spindlework," a demonstration in which I showed how to make nearly-identical skew cuts with use of a gouge instead. (I know how fearful most people are of that dreaded four-letter word -- "skew!") That's me in the picture.

In the afternoon I gave a hands-on demonstration to help turners "tune-up" their spindlework. This is one of the neat and unique features of the Rocky Mountain Woodturning Symposium -- we have a classroom in which a professional demonstrator/teacher does a mini-class (90 minutes) and each participant has a lathe, tools, and wood to learn with. At our new venue this year, we had a large room with lots of space, and everyone who participated was able to get a tool in their hands an immediately try the new techniques that the presenters were showing.

The Saturday-night auction was a great success -- the demonstrators & vendors in the community were very generous with their donations, and we raised a large sum for our club's Educational Opportunity Grant Fund. (And the trade show was fantastic!)

I can't tell you what a wonderful time I've had meeting people at all of the symposia this year... it's like a family reunion, and discovering new relatives all the time! Thank you demonstrators and everyone else in the community for sharing your knowledge... and the love... of woodturning.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day 2, the garden receives plants.

Warm and windy out today, but pretty good weather for planting. The tomatoes were getting a droop each morning despite daily watering, so we figured it was time to get them in the ground.

My ma planted all thirty tomatoes on the south side of the garden, carefully inserting each into their holes, burying them quite deeply, (covering about 3 inches of stem), to brace them against the winds and encourage the plants to develop more roots. We bought the tomatoes from a local grower -- Ollin Farms, in Longmont, Colorado, and they're some of the strongest, healthiest plants I've ever seen! We bought four varieties, including a miniature which already has fruit! (We chose varieties based on a very short growing season).

As my ma was busily digging away, I was doing what I like to do best -- build things. In this case, I was constructing a backdrop for our beans to take the stage! (Ok, that was somewhat dramatic phrasing, however, our garden is poised to be dramatic this season!) All those years watching Time Team has paid off. (If you've never seen it, Time Team is a UK production featuring archeologists who explore ancient sites for three days at a time. They also demonstrate and de-code ancient building and other techniques, such as lathe work, jewelry making, casting, etc.)

In any case, I happened to remember a program whereby the inhabitants of a swampy district were creating bridges, even houses that were perched above the water atop poles... poles that had been driven into the ground with a large weight being pounded on their tops. The bottoms, it was discovered, were sharpened before being driven into the muddy soil beneath the waters.

Instead of 2 ft. diameter tree trunks, I found some 2 inch diameter trunks behind the shed. In lieu of a draw knife, I used my bandsaw to "sharpen" the ends of my poles, and used a hammer to pound them into the soil.

I found some wire fencing as well, and that will serve as the climbable "wall" that peas and beans need to thrive. Planted along our new construction: snow peas on the west side, and green beans on the east.

If you're wondering what all the flags are about -- well, they mark the lines of the soaker hoses -- so we don't accidentally puncture one!

In other news, I've discovered that the seed packets are lying! Apparently, bok choy seeds are supposed to germinate in 7-14 days. WELL, after three days, two have bravely emerged to greet the sunlight! (I can only credit our nifty indoor greenhouse, with it's high humidity and warmth-keeping abilities, for this early emergence!)

I was inspired to do a bit of turnery today -- check out my garden dibble above. Perfect for poking into the soil, the marks on the tool are spaced at half inches to gauge seed planting depth. (You can see I've used it already -- there's genuine Wyoming dirt on that handle!) Planting the bean/pea seeds was a breeze!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Signature Ornate Crochet Hooks

Greetings everyone! I've just posted six new crochet hooks yesterday and five more today on eBay! Check them out!

I wanted to tell you a little about what goes into my Signature Ornate Crochet Hooks -- a very special segment of the fiber arts tools I create.

Each is different, often inspired by my own life, what is happening around me, the seasons, etc.

Even before turning begins, I specifically choose each piece of wood to become one of my special hooks. As I turn, I carefully measure to make sure that the area of design is out of range of hand holding. (There's nothing worse than using an uncomfortable tool!) All of my hooks are designed to be extremely comfortable and delightful to work with.

After finishing the crochet hook on the lathe, then carefully carving and hand-polishing the hook, I take in the character of the wood -- what does it want to be? I then drill a carefully-sized hole where I would like the gemstone to sit, then walk inside to the studio...

Once comfortable, with bright lamps turned on, I look at the hook again, and start doing the hand-carving. I accomplish the wonderful texture in the carving by using a pyrography tool. (No, it's not a dirty word! pyro- = fire, -graphy = drawing/writing.) I literally burn the design into the wood. This has the advantage of burning off the finish (allows the paint to stick), and also creating a wonderful dappled texture, like beaten gold, or copper.

I do all of my pyrography work freehand, without a template. Natural woods are much more conducive to pyrography than the Dyed Hardwoods I sometimes use. (And smell MUCH better!) After burning, I then take up my paintbrush and go to it!

I like to use metallic acrylic paints because they shine, have a little bit of sparkle, and add extra visual texture to the already-stippled "canvas." I add between 3 and 10 layers of paint, different colors, in order to give the hook a more jewel-like appearance.

After all the paint has dried, I then set the gemstone into a Sterling Silver or 14k Gold setting. Remember the hole I drilled earlier? The setting fits EXACTLY into this hole, and besides having this tight jam fit, I also secure it with epoxy. This allows the stone to have a proper countersink with which to sparkle beautifully! (I wish I could capture the sparkle better in my photos!)

After the hook is completed, I then sign it with my artist's mark, a double-K/snowflake symbol.

When posting them on eBay, or Etsy, I also try to include a story about the piece, what inspired it, or a story that the hook itself inspired.

These hooks represent a huge amount of time and effort to create a piece that is truly special, and something I hope their owners will cherish through generations to come.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Posting Day and Airbrush Class

New, new, new! Four brand new hooks on eBay today! (And some fancy ones tomorrow!)

Greetings everyone, last Tuesday I had the incredible privilege of taking an airbrush class from world-renowned artist David Nittmann! All I can say is "Wow!"

"Sweet Surrender" by David Nittmann
Used with permission

Seeing his breath-taking artwork, I've always thought of David as an incredible artist, almost in a different world than us mere mortals. However, David is a very down-to-earth person, and a fantastic teacher! With his years of expertise in woodturning and painting and dyeing wood, every morsel of information he passes on is an absolute jewel! (It is impossible to overstate how much wonderful knowledge I gained from his class -- there's nothing like learning from a Master!)

We began the class by learning every piece and parcel of the airbrush, including the all-important cleaning process. Then after discovering how to hold the tool properly, and working some beginning exercises, David moved on to mixing colors.

This might seem fairly self-explanatory, right? Red + Blue = Purple, maybe.... It's more difficult if you have to match a color on a magazine photograph. Red is not merely red any more... it's the color of candied apples, or a Russian lacquered box... a color not found straight from the bottle. To achieve that precise match requires much skill in observation, and good guesswork about how much of a particular color to add to the mix.

David took time to give me his expert advice on achieving the colors I needed, and now I'm home, happily mixing and painting away -- the perfect colors in hand! (And with the knowledge to create ANY color I need!)

"Mandarine" by David Nittmann
Used with permission

Another very cool thing I learned is that David has spent countless hours, days, months, experimenting with and researching the very best paints and dyes to use on wood. Not your standard buy-at-craft-store-paints, David carries E'tac brand, which are the most light- and color-fast available today. They work especially well on wood because they are slightly stretchy, and won't "break" if the wood moves, (as it always does... even slightly). They're archival quality -- for the finest art pieces.

David Nittmann is an absolute treasure! I would encourage EVERYONE to take his classes -- he's a wonderfully creative and inspiring teacher, with a huge amount of knowledge to share. Thank you David for the very valuable and personalized instruction!

Now I get to practice painting with this fabulously fun tool. (I can't wait to take more advanced classes!)

On a very personal and professional note: I absolutely believe in taking classes from Masters of their art/craft. You can learn more in a single moment with a Master than in days with a someone who only practices their craft as a hobby. Masters use and improve their skills every working hour of the day -- there's NO substitute for their expertise. David Nittmann is one of the finest of these professionals.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Posting Day!

Greetings! Yes, indeed, it's another posting day, and I have some beauties for you! Check out five new crochet hooks posted on eBay today!

Here's a small preview:

Two fantastic new materials -- Pasta and Acorns! Each is embedded within coordinating acrylics! Very very cool stuff! Both are listed up on eBay!

In other news, I have been working on some other VERY cool projects lately... having a lot of fun in the shop and learning many new techniques! Back to work for me!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Working with New Materials

Happy New Year! I wish everyone the best in this bright and promising new year!

I've just posted five gorgeous new crochet hooks, (including the two mentioned below), on eBay, and two gorgeous new nostepindes on Etsy! Please check them out!

Thank you everyone for your wonderful comments about my Photography Tutorial posted last week!

I was so inspired this past week, I wanted to share my experiences with you about new materials.

Whether it be yarn, fabric, wood, metal, plastic, clay, or even new plants for your garden, new materials can rekindle passion and provide inspiration for ongoing projects. Take the two hooks below:

I was privileged to win a wonderful handmade pen from Syzygy Pens in a Christmas contest. I asked about the material from which it was made and was sent to a web site that was completely new to me! Inside I found some marvelously magical materials, and my thoughts began to fly!

Last week I received my order, and oh what inspiration took hold! I made a profusion of new designs inspired by these phantasmagorical acrylics!

I own literally hundreds of miles of yarn, hundreds of yards of fabric, and hundreds of board-feet of wood, and while it may seem that I clearly have enough... sometimes it is beneficial to buy that sparkling something that winks at you in the store... that material that combines real coffee beans with acrylic and smells delicious... and that rosewood that can't help but jump in the car and excitedly ask "are we home yet?"

I try to be on-top of new technologies, especially where tools are concerned -- I use only the best. Keeping on top of materials technology is important too -- new materials can take your work to the height of excitement!

Adding an eyelash yarn to plain knit transforms "mundane" into "pizazz." Using exotic burls instead of straight-grained wood adds texture and life to a piece. The second hook from the top has a finial made of burl wood combined with acrylic material, allowing the plastic to flow into every nook and cranny. When turned, it produced a fantastic "river" that flows all the way to the top of the hook!

Keep looking for the newest, the most interesting. Remember the Free Form Fiber Artist's Credo: "You only need one skein." (Or one block of wood). Visit new web sites, explore the marvelous global community of the Internet, and search for what excites your imagination!