New Year, New Beginnings, Sculpey Polymer Clay Butterfly Necklace Set

Good morning. I had only ever tried out polymer clay once several years ago to make some beads but experienced absolute disaster as I scorched most of them on baking. The majority were consigned to the bin and I never got around to trying it out again! I would just look in envy at the gorgeous projects others were making with this medium.

I have since used various air dry clays and had been meaning to give polymer clay another try for ages, particularly for making beads and jewellery. However, I wasn’t feeling all that confident with my ability, or with my very old gas oven which varies so much in temperature (front to back and top to bottom).

I was immensely flattered when renowned polymer clay artist Debbie Bulford asked if I would like to take part in this month’s Sculpey polymer clay challenge. Oh gosh! I really wanted to get the process right this time. I needed a challenge like this to push me into giving it another try.

The theme was ‘New Year Celebrations’ and could be interpreted how I liked to make any item with Sculpey Polymer Clay. I thought that ‘New Beginnings’ would be an apt title for my creation. New year, and evolving myself with new techniques and challenges. What better than the metamorphosis of caterpillar into butterfly. So here it is – my ‘New Beginnings’. I am going to enjoy wearing this over Christmas.

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Before starting on this piece I knew that I had to research and learn more about the properties of the clay. I also wanted to ensure that the baking was done under more controlled conditions. I put my scientist head on first this time. I read around, watched lots of YouTube videos and carried out several baking trials before I started on my piece. My baking times are longer than many others use but I have based them on my trials with my particular baking conditions. Renowned polymer clay tutor Cindy Lietz is also an advocate of longer baking. I am going to blog all my findings and trials in another posting after Christmas. I hope that others just starting out will find it useful to help them begin with their own creations.

Materials:

  • Von Chef table top oven with raised silicone baking mat and oven thermometer (see pic below)
  • Scrap card to sit items on for baking
  • Sculpey Premo Polymer Clay (57g packs): Black (2 packs), Antique Gold (1/2 pack), White (1/4 pack),Wisteria (1/4 pack), Blue Glitter (1/8 pack)
  • Sculpey Bake & Bond
  • Antique bronze coloured copper wire (1mm and 0.6mm), plain copper wire (0.8mm and 0.6mm)
  • Mica powders (Jaquard – Super Bronze, Aztec Gold, True Blue, Flamingo Pink)
  • Clay extruder with petal and circle discs plus an adaptor to make hollow tubes
  • Acrylic roller, glass mat, Teflon mat, various clay shaping tools
  • Leaf shaped push cutters (3 sizes – 5cm to 3cm length range)
  • Pasta rolling machine
  • Ready made antique bronze leaf toggle clasp and earring hook findings

Step by Step – how it was made:

I first tested my oven to achieve even temperature without big fluctuations – 125 to 130 degrees centigrade. The important thing is to have the oven hot enough but without it getting too hot and causing scorching. I used a raised silicone baking mat to raise my baked pieces away from the hot surface (the temperature fluctuates immensely right next to the base as the thermostat clicks on and off)

Note: The clay will give off a slight plastic smell while baking but if you get an acrid smell it is too hot (ventilate the room well if this happens). I have given baking times for my pieces based on my experiments – different ovens may give different optimal baking times. Thicker pieces will need longer than thinner (more about all this will be included in my blog after Christmas along with how I tested my optimal baking times etc.).

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Clay was conditioned by hand kneading and by passing repeatedly through the pasta roller. Black clay was extruded using a circle disc and adaptor to make a long tube of clay (approx. 6-7mm wide). Different coloured micas were applied to the surface to give shimmer. This was then baked in a lightly curled up state to set a slight curve into the tube (40 mins). The baked clay was then sliced to make beads approx. 2-2.5cm long.

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The beads were then threaded with 1mm antique bronze wire. At one end the wire was looped and pushed into the end of the bead to close the opening. A loop was created at the other end with extra twirls and coils added for an organic look. A little space was allowed at the bead ends for wrapping clay to cover the open bead ends and loops were aligned in a horizontal orientation (see next step).

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Thin ‘cords’ of black clay were created with the extruder and wrapped randomly around the beads using Bake & Bond to ‘glue’. The open ends of the beads were covered to hide the holes and ‘set’ the wires in place.

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The bead ends covered and wires anchored with clay coils.

 

The leaf/petal shaped disc was used and the extruded ‘cane’ sliced to make little leaf shapes. These were squished, shaped and attached onto the beads. A little Bake & Bond was used where needed (i.e. if attaching to the prebaked clay areas). I designed the slightly curved beads to fit around the neck so they had a front and back side. Leaves were added to the front so they would not be lumpy and sticking into the skin (particularly as the pendant section is quite heavy). The fresh clay embellishments were dusted with mica powders then baked for a further 60 minutes (10 beads for the necklace and 2 for earrings).

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Beads, extruded ‘cords’ and ‘leaf cane’ created with extruder discs.

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Leaves added and mica powder applied ready to bake.

 

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Finished beads after baking.

The beads were joined together with 1mm wire using random swirly joining loops (5 beads each side of the clasp). Note the slightly curved beads were orientated so that they would fit the curve around the neck. I tried connecting with double jump rings but they gave too structured a finish. The random swirly loops gave the more organic look that I was after.

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The front branch was created next. I estimated the size by holding up the beaded section onto my neck and estimating the width and depth that I wanted. I created a shallow ‘V’shaped branch approx. 10cm across and 5cm deep using 1mm wire as an armature for the clay (to give it extra strength). Attachment loops were created at the apex and tips.

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2 ‘sausages’ of black clay were slit and wrapped around the wire armature to create an organic branch shape. Extruded ‘cords’ of black and gold clay mix were wrapped and twisted around the branch to give added texture. Mica was brushed over to colour (see pics below).

Next the leaf embellishments were created using a blend of black and gold clays and push cutters (rough Skinner Blend to get colour variations – see below). The clay was put through the pasta roller to create sheets of approx. 1.5mm thick. The push cutters were used to cut and emboss the shapes at the same time. Leaf fronts were cut from the blended colour sheets and the backs cut with black clay.

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0.6mm copper wire armatures were added for extra strength and to help with shaping (which also held the shape while baking).

The leaves were arranged onto the branch and wires pushed into the clay to hold. Mica powders added extra colour variation. The branch was then baked for 40 mins.

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Note some wire ends were left protruding on the left and right sides to aid attachment of embellishments later.

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The branch back.

0.8mm copper wire was used to make an armature for the caterpillar. Black clay was rolled and cut into slices to make disc shaped beads which were thread onto the wire and pushed together. A small amount of white clay was extruded with a small circle disc and sliced to make little circles for eyes. Shaping tools were used to add texture details and a little mica powder added extra colour. The caterpillar was attached to the branch using Bake & Bond and baked for 30 minutes.

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Several Skinner Blend mixes were created to makes canes which were wrapped with black clay and joined together to make a butterfly cane. There are lots of video tutorials out there about making blends. Triangles of glitter blue or Wisteria clay were blended with white by repeatedly passing through the clay roller.

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The long blended strips were then folded concertina style and eased into a sausage shape. I didn’t worry too much about getting it perfect as it was not really essential for this project. A thin layer of black clay was then wrapped around the outside to make a Bulls Eye cane with a colour gradient across the middle.

I then started combining these canes to build up my butterfly cane. I really struggled with this bit. However, I did manage to get some pretty canes. I definitely need a little practice at this!

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Some of my attempts at butterfly cane – oh dear! One of my distorted canes was however perfect for creating the newly emerged butterfly wings and I was really pleased with how it looked. I again used a 1mm bronze wire armature to add strength and to create an attachment loop (baked for 1 hour).

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I persisted and made another butterfly cane. I really struggled with reducing it so made it close to the size that I wanted. However, where I wanted a delicate butterfly look it turned out to be more of a moth look instead! Again I used a wire armature (0.8mm copper) to add strength and to hold the shape while baking. The butterfly was attached to the branch using Bake & Bond and the piece was baked for another hour.

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The newly emerged butterfly was attached at the base using double jump rings created with 1mm wire. The branch was attached to the necklace beaded section using 1mm wire and ‘organic’ loops.

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One of my ‘reject’ butterfly canes also made some lovely earrings to coordinate. I made a couple of delicate slices and added holes using a ball tool. Baked for 1 hour.

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The butterfly wings were attached to the beads using jump rings created with 1mm bronze coloured wire. Ready made hooks were attached to the bead tops.

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I have loved my first big adventures with polymer clay and I know that I will enjoy wearing this one. A definite statement piece! Here’s to new beginnings x.

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AW New begin finished tree

Hopefully there are not too many typos or errors in my post – rushing around to get ready for Christmas – tee hee. Wishing you all Happy Holidays and a fabulous New Year, Anne xxx.

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Easy Christmas Earrings

Good morning. These Christmas earrings are a really easy make and don’t take too long. Great for blinging up a Christmas outfit. I made them with earring clips for friends without pierced ears but they could be attached to stud & loop fittings or earring hooks too.

I used ready made wire hoop earring findings and simply wrapped then with lovely tinsel thread (Madeira Glissen Gloss). I used high tac fabric glue to attach tiny star sequins and to add a little fine polyester glitter for extra sparkle. I attached a simple beaded drop for extra dangle and movement.

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Paperlathe CD from Gina Barrett

Gina Barret is on Create & Craft TV tomorrow at 11am (Freeview Channel 23 or watch live online from their website). Gina will be launching her fabulous new book – Total Trimmings 2 featuring decorative knotting. In addition she will be bringing back some old favourites including her Tassel Making DVD’s and tools –  including the fabulous Paperlathe for creating beads and tassel moulds.

Traditional wooden tassel moulds are extremely difficult to obtain. This CD is brilliant and contains 100’s of patterns to make your own tassel moulds and beads.

I have been having a play and made various beads using wrapping papers. I have also made a set of tassel moulds.

I will share some of my finished projects soon xxx.

 

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These will be fabulous once I have coated them with varnish of shiny embossing powder.

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Tassel moulds ready for thread wrapping and decorating.

 

The Paperlathe CD also comes with a variety of wrapping rods to create a range of shapes (round, square and triangular). Just brilliant and so easy to make.

Art on the Common Exhibition in Harpenden

I will be taking part in 2 Art Exhibitions on the weekend of 10 and 11th June 2017.

 

I have entered several Artwork pieces into the Ayot St. Lawrence Art Exhibition in the Palladium Church – 10, 11 and 12th June 2017. This coincides with the Garden Festival where they open up the gardens of several cottages and The Old Rectory. Well worth a day out in this beautiful historic village.

 

I will also be having my own stall at Art on the Common in Harpenden – 10 and 11th June – where over 40 artists will be exhibiting. The Saturday coincides with the Harpenden Carnival where there will be loads to do and see during the day (lots for the kids too).

AOTC CR poster 2017 issue 2

I am working like crazy to finish enough to fill my stall! I will be bringing some smaller mixed media artworks, hand painted silks and bags, and beaded jewellery. There are never enough hours in the day!

Woven bangles created for Beads Direct using the new Bangle Weaver Tool from Beadalon

I have had so much fun playing with the new Bangle Weaver Tool designed by Kleshna for Beadalon. I simply love it and my mind is bursting with ideas. It can be used to create so many different styles of bangle, from structured wire weaves to Boho and ethnic styles using fabric strips. Why not try recycling old T shirts, bedding or carrier bags.

Beads Direct asked me to create a few designs for their blog – they took some lovely pics too. Do check the Beads Direct Blog for lots of great projects from the Design Team.

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The instructions included are very easy to follow, and it can be used to weave so many different types of materials, for example:

· Beading cable (e.g. 7 Strand beading wire)or monofilament (e.g. Supplemax)

· Recycled sari silk yarns or ribbons

· Shamballa (e.g. waxed nylon cord), cotton (e.g. waxed cotton) or rattail cords (e.g. satin)

· Leather (e.g. round cord) or suede cords (e.g. flat cord)

The possibilities are simply endless.

I find that Kumihimo bobbins are invaluable for keeping cords or ribbons manageable, or Spool Tamers if you are weaving beading wires. Bead stoppers are also handy for temporarily holding beaded cables or ribbons in place. You will also need blunt ended needles with a large eye to replace the warp. The bodkin set recommended by Kleshna is very good. However, when warping ribbon or fabric strip weaves I found that an extra-long bodkin (e.g. elastic threader available from haberdashery stores) was much easier to use. Note: The warp pegs are quite sharp so I would not recommend the tool for young children, and do protect you table top from scratches by using with a mat.

Woven Bangle Designs

I have created a few designs for you using Recycled Sari Silk Ribbons and 0.6mm Supplemax Monofilament along with various beads from my stash. I hope that they inspire you to get started with your own designs. I followed the basic instructions included with the tool for setting up, weaving and warping. I just love this fabulous tool.

Happy beading, Anne x.

Materials used:

· Recycled Sari Silk Ribbons (ST240)

· 0.6mm Supplemax Monofilament (W418)

· Classic White Vintage Bead Mix (BG0362)

· Berry Smoothie Blush Pink Vintage Bead Mix (BG0371)

· Glam Green Vintage Bead Mix (BG0363)

· Lucite Flower Bead Mix (BO435)

· Peridot and Lemon Toho Seed Beads Size 11 (11TR27 and 11TR902)

· Turquoise Toho Seed Beads Size 8 (8TR55)

· Hot Pink 3mm Cross Grain Ribbon (TC1076)

· Silver Plated Crimp Beads #2 (F317)

· 0.25mm Supplemax Monofilament (TC94)

· Co-ordinating Nymo or KO beading threads (for sewing)

· Silver Plated Headpins (F0043)

Floral Trellis Bangle

AW Floral Trellis Bangle

I used 0.6mm Supplemax, the vintage pink bead mix and a few flowers to create this bangle. I love the way that the beads appear to be suspended on the transparent woven trellis.

Unwind and cut off approximately 4m from the spool and thread with 231 beads from the pink mix. Wind onto a Kumihimo bobbin. I used a Bead Stopper to clamp the monofilament while weaving (you could crimp them together at this stage).

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Weave 7 rows with one plain and one beaded strand, moving up 3 beads to the front per ‘wrap’ with the beaded strand. The weave holds the beads in place.

Unwind approximately 1.5m off from the plain spool before cutting. Pass one of the strands down through the warp to the other side to give the 2 warping strands. Warp the bangle according to the included instructions and secure using crimp beads. I adjusted the tension by pulling in the warp threads to give a bangle width of approx. 1.5 inches as I worked around.

Next stitch on flowers using the thinner 0.25mm Supplemax. Tie on the thread, pass up through the flower, add on a small lemon seed bead, pass back down the flower and tie/knot back onto the trellis. Weave the thread through the trellis between the flowers.

Spring Garden Bangle

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I used strips of the silk ribbon in yellows/creams and greens for the weave and 0.6mm Supplemax for the warp, then embellished with beads.

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Join the silk ribbon strips by stitching them together (just a couple of small stitches to anchor) using beading thread. Prepare approximately 1.5 to 2m each of yellows/creams and greens. Twist the strips and wind onto Kumihimo bobbins for weaving. Twisting the strips gives added strength and structure to the weave. After weaving 7 rows secure the silk strips with a few stitches.

Use approximately 2m of the 0.6mm Supplemax to warp, adjusting the bangle width to approx. 1.5 inches by gently pulling on both the warps as you work around. I generally prefer to tighten and adjust the warp as I work on silk weaves, rather than after the warp pegs have been removed.

Use crimps to secure the ends. Once removed from the warp pegs neaten the cut ends of the silk by stitching them down, hiding them on the inside of the bangle.

I found the use of an extra long bodkin really useful for pulling the warp strands though the channels of the ribbon weave. Tip: Push the eye of the bodkin through the channel, thread with the monofilament, and then pull through. Unthread and repeat pulling the cables through from each side.

Then use 0.6mm Supplemax to add small green beads (from the Glam Green Vintage Mix) along the top and bottom edges. Simply weave the cable through, following the pattern of the silk weave, adding 11 groups of 3 beads on each edge (i.e. you will need 66 beads in total). Secure with crimps, hiding them by burying into the silk weave.

Further embellish the bangle by stitching on groups of green beads, along with purple and white flowers, using co-ordinating beading thread. Use peridot seed beads to attach the green beads and flowers, and to create little beaded leaves. The leaves are made by threading 9 beads, passing back down the eighth bead, adding 6 beads and finally passing back through the first bead. Ensure that groups of beads are anchored well by stitching into the silk. Stitch through the back of the bangle when moving between beaded sections.

Blue Lagoon Bangle

AW Blue Lagoon Bangle

This bangle was woven in the same way as the Spring Garden Bangle. A random mix of blue and green silk ribbons were used but they were not twisted before weaving. I tightened up the warp tension after removing the warp pegs (as described in the instruction booklet). The resultant weave is softer and less structured than when using twisted strips. It is also more difficult to get an even tension. However, I was very pleased with the results, giving the design a more organic feel.

To embellish, first attach groups of 2 or 3 beads onto headpins. Anchor these onto the warp (buried in the silk weave) for stability, attaching them with wrapped loops. Further embellish by stitching on clusters of beads from the Glam Green Vintage mix, plus green and turquoise flowers, along with turquoise and peridot seed beads.

Tooty Fruity Bangle

AW Tooty Fruity Bangle

In this design I added beads (from the Pink Vintage Mix) onto the warp to create a border along the edges of the bangle. I also included a cross grain ribbon in the weave to give added texture.

Prepare approximately 1.5 to 2m each of bright pink and dark purple silk strips, twist and wind them onto Kumihimo bobbins. The bangle is woven in the same way as the Spring Garden Bangle but weaving with one pink strand, and combining a pink cross grain ribbon along with the purple strand.

Warp using approximately 3m of 0.6mm Supplemax and add a bead onto each warp strand before passing them back down the channel. Note: when adding beads to the outer warp edges they need to be fairly large when using silk weave. Smaller beads just disappear down into the channels.

Finally embellish by stitching sets of 3 beads in rows around the weave. You will need a total of 66 beads (11 groups of 3 per row).

Indian Rose Bangle

AW Indian Rose Bangle

I chose 6 different silk ribbon colours to weave this one. They were woven in the same way as the Spring Garden bangle but the colour combination was changed every 3 rows: green and purple for the first 3 rows, yellow and pink for the next 3 rows, cream and cerise for the top 3 rows. The bangle was warped using approximately 2m of the 0.6mm Supplemax.

Use the silk ribbons to create a flower and embellish using beads from the Pink Vintage Mix:

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Create 5 small cerise petals from 1.5 inch squares. First fold the square in half, then fold the outer edges to the centre and down to create a small folded triangle with raw edges along the base. Use small running stitches along the base to gather the petal.

Create 5 large turquoise petals using 4 X 1.5 inch strips. First fold the strips in half and round off the corners on the raw edges. Use small running stitches along the raw edges and pull up to gather the petal.

Arrange the petals and stitch them onto the bangle. Add beads to cover the centre and raw edges.

Encrusted Treasure Bangle

AW Encrusted Treasure Bangle

This bangle was woven using knotted silk strands along with a strand of beaded 0.6mm Supplemax (Classic White Mix). I just love the textures on this one.

Prepare approximately 1.5 to 2m each of turquoise/teal and mixed red strips, stitching lengths together with a few stitches to hold, and then knot over the join. Next knot the silk strips at intervals of approximately 2 inches right along the length. Don’t pull too hard or the silk will tear. Loosely twist the teal and red strands together and wind onto a Kumihimo bobbin.

Keeping the 0.6mm Supplemax on the reel, thread a length of approximately 1m with a random mix of the white beads. Weave the bangle in a similar way as the Floral Trellis, pushing up 3-5 beads to the front per ‘wrap’ with the beaded strand. The weave holds the beads in place.

Warp using approximately 3m of 0.6mm Supplemax and secure with crimps.