Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Copper Patinas

So, the past few days I have been obsessed with copper patinas. It all started with a great thread on Etsy and I jumped in with both feet. Most people know that copper will darken with age. Just compare a freshly minted penny to an old one and you will see exactly what I mean. The darker color is actually quite beautiful when offset with colored beads. However, I wanted to see what else could be done with copper.

My first experiment was to blue copper using ammonia. I got the idea from BeadStyle magazine.

I decided to try it on one of my copper byzantine link keychains. I carefully cleaned and polished the keyring to ensure the patina would cover the copper evenly.

I soaked the keychain for about two hours in a solution of salt water. Then I lightly patted it with a paper towel to remove the dripping salt water. I then suspended it on a bamboo skewer in a plastic container with about a half inch of ammonia in the bottom. I closed the top securely and let it sit for about two hours. Within ten minutes, the copper darkened and started to look really nasty. I was a bit concerned about whether it would turn blue or black.

After about and hour I started to see bits of blue developing. However, the majority of the copper was still a nasty blackish color. The water in the container also started to take on a blue cast.

After two hours, there was quite a bit of blue on the copper rings. As it dried, the blue lightened up to a beautiful rich turquoise color.

Important Notes: The copper must be cleaned and free of all chemicals. Do not use a commercial cleaner such as Never Dull or the patina will not stick. The patina is fragile and flakes off with handling. I rinsed the piece and allowed it dry several times. Some of the blue flaked off, revealing the lovely darkened brown beneath. I recommend sealing the finished piece with a matte sealer to preserve the patina and keep the weathered look. If you prefer, you may use a gloss sealer to give the finished piece a lot of shine. If you plan to incorporate the finished piece into a larger work, please note that the patina is a surface finish and will easily scratch off with tools, so be gentle and plan your work carefully.

My next patina experiment was to heat color copper. This is a particularly lovely technique that I have long admired. There is a great blog by the Etsy Metal Team explaining this process in much more detail. It is typically done with a torch on sheet copper. However, I use heavy gauge copper wire in my work and have a six year old little boy who helps me with my work. The use of a torch is simply not an option for me at this point. After much thought and an idea given by a fellow Etsian, I decided to try a heat coloring experiment using my electric oven.

I have a pair of earrings and a spiral neckwire that I wear quite a bit. I decided to use these pieces for my heat experiment. I set my oven on high broil, moved the rack to the highest level and made a little aluminum foil tray to place my earring component on. Making sure that the copper was directly beneath the heating element, I broiled my earring components for about 10 minutes, checking frequently to ensure the color didn't go beyond the pink/purple shade I was shooting for. As soon as I saw the color I wanted, I very carefully placed them on a piece of cardboard in my freezer to quickly cool them and lock in the color.

The neckwire was a bit trickier as it is shaped to sit smoothly around the neck. I wanted the color portion to be focused on the spiral, not on the curved sides. I ended up carefully positioning the neckwire through the wire of the oven rack so that the spiral portion was fairly flat under one of the heating elements. I broiled it for about 15 minutes as it was a bit thicker than the earring components. As soon as I saw that gorgeous pink/purple color, I carefully placed it in on the cardboard in my freezer and allowed it to cool for about two hours.

All in all, I am very pleased with my first attempts at heat coloring copper...especially as I was improvising with my tools and techniques.

Important Notes: As with the bluing technique, it is very important that your copper be clean and free of all chemical residue. I often use Never Dull to clean my copper pieces as it leaves a slight protective film. I did not get all of this off the first time I attempted to heat color my earrings and I ended up with a very unattractive mottled brown finish. I was able to clean it off, but the heat combined with the chemical left a pitted surface on the copper. If you do not achieve the color you want, you can buff the surface clean using emory cloth.

I lost a great deal of the pink/purple color as the copper cooled. I am not sure how to resolve that issue, but I am still researching and experimenting. Many people recommend using Rennaisance Wax to seal the pieces after heat coloring. I have not done this yet as I don't have any Ren Wax on hand at this moment.

Friday, April 25, 2008


Before I developed an addiction to Etsy, I was locked in a love affair with words and music. I indulged in this passion through Pathetic a website dedicated to poets. You can visit my own pathetic library here. I haven't written much since opening my Etsy shop and I have missed it more than I thought I would. So today I thought I would take a brief moment to share with you the wonder of poetry and my own love affair with the written language.

There is something magical about our ability to express ourselves through the written word. Without facial expressions or vocal inflection, we must choose our words carefully in order to draw the appropriate response from our audience. Writing is an outlet for our emotions. It is a way to purge ourselves of events, memories, experiences that threaten to poison our souls or curdle our inner selves. Without this outlet, I truly believe that I would be sporting a white coat with extra long sleeves and residing in a lovely studio apartment with padded walls.

Poetry can be light hearted and fun:

The Unwanted Guest
by Genevieve Sturrock

if i feed this cold
will it go away
or decide to visit
for yet another day

i could try and starve it
let it wither up and die
maybe without sustenance
it will bug some other guy

do you think that sleep would bore it
and send it on it's way
or just rejuvenate it
enough to want to stay

i'm sick of all the sniffling
the sneezing and the hacking
won't somebody tell me what to do
to send this d*** cold packing


Or a way to share our own knowledge:

Love Life Marriage (Reprised)
by Genevieve Sturrock

all perfect men
have flaws to expose when
love gains sight

true love begins
when the honeymoon's over and
the first big fight

stumbling blocks
become building blocks for
the road of life

it takes more
than just exhanging rings to be
husband and wife


Or, as is the most often case with me, an emotional outlet. Certainly cheaper than therapy:

Either Way, It's Still Dead
by Genevieve Sturrock

you held the knife
but i'm the one
who thrust my
heart upon it
as we both stared
in wide eyed shock
i'm the one
who had pulled
it off with
a wrenching twist
wringing out
every ounce
of pain
until all
that remained
was a mutilated
pile of emotion
putrifying in
the aftermath
yes, i thrust my heart
upon that knife
but you were the one
who held it steady


I hope you enjoyed these selections from my library and that you will take a few moments of your time to really look at and read some of the wonderful authors at Pathetic.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Not Into Scrapbooking?

...but LOVE the papers? Join the club! I can't scrapbook to save my life. Believe me, I have tried, that is not where my talents lie! I leave that to my oh so very talented sisters-in-law!

So, what to do with all those gorgeous papers? Well, Origami of course! Scrapbooking papers are square, a nice weight for folding and with all the accessories in the scrapbooking department of your local hobby store you can go really let your imagination run wild!

Here are a few examples of what I do with my scrapbooking papers:

Do you love to give gift cards, but have no idea how to make the presentation cute and useful? This petite envelope is made from 6" x 6" scrapbooking paper and is the perfect size for gift cards, cash, or little gifts such as a pair of earrings or a simple pendant. I often slip a few business cards and a tip in one and leave them for my server at a restaurant.

This 2" x 2.25" album is made from a single sheet of 12" x 12" scrapbooking paper. This is Origami in it's most pure form. No scissors or glue were used in making this book, just a series of complex folds to create the 5 separate pages and the sturdy little cover. The clasp is made from scrapbooking accessories.

What can you think of to do with scrapbooking papers?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I've Been Spotted on Another Blog

I want to give a huge shout out to Water Rose, who very thoughtfully interviewed me for her blog. It's my first such honor and I am humbled to be included on her beautiful blog. I have admired her skills with needle and thread since first discovering her on Etsy. Take a peek at some of her work below and I think you will have to agree, she is amazingly talented!

Friday, April 4, 2008

I Was Featured in The Storque

For those in the know, pop on over and check it out. For everyone else, The Storque is the awsome newsletter for Etsy. They are currently running a series called, The Handmade Wedding.

As a seamstress, I have seen my fair share of wedding dress disasters. You would not believe some of the stories I could tell! I once had a bride's maid decide that she was too fat for her custom made gown, so she did a crash diet...three weeks before the wedding! Of course, she lost weight in all the wrong her bustline! I had to remake the bodice of her dress and she insisted that i take it in one more time the night before the wedding!

Here is the full article I submitted to The Storque. I hope you enjoy reading it and, perhaps, learn something to help you should you ever have a gown custom made.

I have been a special occasion seamstress for over 15 years. So, when one my dearest friends, Amy, got engaged, I was thrilled when she asked me to make her dress. She was a dream client and followed every little piece of advice I gave her. Making her dress was the smoothest, least stressful experience I have had. I hope by sharing our journey together, you will learn some tips and strategies to making your custom dress experience joyful.

Be Prepared!
I told Amy that just because I was making her dress didn’t mean she couldn’t have the fun of trying on gowns with her family and friends. In fact, the more dresses she tried on, the better knowledge she would have of what really worked for her. Amy took pictures of a few of her favorite dresses so she could show me what details she liked and what fitting problems she had.

Be Detailed!
As with most things in life, a bridal gown is all about the details! Amy knew she wanted a simple, clean lined dress without beading or heavy lace, but it still had to be spectacular. So we spent an afternoon looking through a stack of bridal magazines and picking apart the dresses to find design elements she really liked. It turned out that she did like a touch of a lace, hated pearls and sequins, but loved rhinestones.

Know Your Budget!
Like most brides, Amy was on a budget. We started with her ideal dress of silk charmeuse and chiffon with rhinestone embellished lace and looked for ways to trim the cost without losing the look she wanted. We ended up with a lovely low sheen satin (also called dull satin) and an extremely soft chiffon. The lace was our real struggle. It is difficult to find bridal lace without pearls and sequins and all the pre-embellished lace was extremely expensive. We finally found a beautiful plain lace and embellished it ourselves with glue on rhinestones. Because Amy was so honest with me about what she could and could not afford, I was able to prevent her having a nasty sticker shock and I had the fun of designing the embellishments on the lace rather than just using what was pre-manufactured.

Be Time-Wise!
Making a custom wedding gown takes time. Amy was the perfect client. She came to me the day after her engagement to discuss her wedding dress. She was clear about her deadline needs we set a fitting schedule that worked for both of us. She lived out of state, so it was very important to keep our communication open about the progress of her dress. We set her final fitting about two weeks prior the date she needed the gown. This way we were prepared to handle any last minute emergencies without adding stress to either of us.

Be Flexible!
Although this was Amy’s wedding dress and she had been planning it for years, I knew more about fabrics and patterns and how each would work with her figure. Amy really wanted a soft, easy flowing fabric. However, that fabric was not going to work well with the dress style she had picked out. By listening to my advice and going with a heavier weight fabric, she ended up with a dress that fit her and was able to support her chosen style. Lightweight, flowing fabrics are great for loose fitting dresses, but just cannot support a highly tailored gown without a great deal of inner structural support.

Be Supported!
Amy is large busted and was concerned about having adequate support for her wedding day. We discussed the styles of dresses she liked and decided on an appropriate undergarment to wear. She bought the undergarment before I took her measurements and she wore it each time we did a fitting. Every support garment affects your figure differently. One bra may lift and separate while another may flatten slightly and yet another may be padded. Each of these differences drastically changes the way a well-tailored gown will fit your body.

Amy also knew that she wanted to wear a slight heel. I explained to her that our shoes effect our posture as much as our height. We all tend to relax and maybe slouch a little when we are barefoot or in flat shoes, but we stand straighter and hold our tummies in out of habit when we are in heels...and the higher the heels, the better our posture. At each fitting, Amy wore shoes that were the same height as her intended bridal shoes.

Be Fit!
As I explained to Amy, a wedding gown will require at least two fitting muslins prior to starting on the actual dress. (If your seamstress does not offer fitting muslins, get another seamstress!) Fittings are crucial to creating a perfect dress and fitting muslins are often used as the pattern for the final dress. Once the fabric for your dress is cut, it cannot be uncut, so it is imperative that the fit be exactly what you want before scissors touch that special fabric.

Be Consistent!
As with most brides, Amy’s weight fluctuated some as her big day approached. This is normal and slight variances can be accommodated with little difficulty. Do not go into a custom dress situation planning to change your weight. Drastic weight changes will effect the shape and proportion of your body in ways that are impossible to guess. If you want to modify your weight prior to the wedding, then do so before having your gown designed and fitted.

Be Realistic!
Amy knew that having her dress custom made would take longer than just picking one out at her local bridal boutique and was prepared for that. I have been amazed at the unrealistic ideas some of my clients have had. You cannot expect haute couture detailing on a shoestring budget. If you are a curvaceous lady, do not expect to suddenly look like a runway model and vice versa. If you make major changes in design elements, expect the cost of your dress to change accordingly. Be thoughtful when requesting changes. Discuss the consequences of any change with your seamstress so that you are both aware of the effect on budget and time lines.

Enjoy Yourself!
Amy knew that having her wedding dress custom made was a once in a lifetime experience. Her dress was fitted to her body and filled with details and design elements that she picked out. Although it was time consuming and, at times, tedious, Amy enjoyed the attention and the opportunity to create her perfect dress. It was all about her big day. Every rhinestone, every yard of lace, all the hours of fittings and design details were part of creating the perfect dress to showcase her. We both enjoyed every minute of it!

About Me

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i sew because i cannot draw.