Saturday, October 16, 2010

The first chainmaille purse

I mentioned these awhile ago, and I finally have come up with a finished purse design. I dare say that it's less-than-perfect, but I'm quite pleased with the finished look of it.

Originally, I wanted to go with a flat, zippered design, but in the end, the weight of the chainmaille made a drawstring design far more practical and a bit simpler to create. I may eventually attempt a zippered design, but for now, I'm loving the drawstring. But, let's back up a little bit and let me introduce you to just how I created the first one.

Pieceing the bag together

The main body of the purse is actually made from pre-woven welded chainmaille mesh that I get from a popular chainmaille supplier. In the case of this first purse, I actually stitched scraps of this welded mesh 'fabric' together using rings that are a bit thicker gauge and slightly larger than those in the mesh itself. I did so in a way that makes them stand out (yes, the visibility of the seams is intentional). In the future I may attempt to blend them in more, but for a first experiment, I was more interested in whether or not I could actually create the finished piece rather than make it look 100% perfect.

Once I had a large enough piece of 'fabric' created, I proceeded to fold it in half and stitch up the sides with much thicker, heavier gauge rings. I used these same rings to go all the way around the top of the bag to create the drawstring part. At this point, I took a scrap piece of leather and fed it through the cinching rings at the top to see how the whole thing would look when closed. Here's what it looked like at that point:

Note that in the photo, I have also already attached larger rings to hold the straps, and the straps are temporarily held on with some coated pieces of wire (twist ties! *laughs*). This is what it looked like when hanging:

Materials, straps, and lining

I had really wanted to use mostly leather for the drawstring and strap, and ultimately decided upon a piece of suede to be the drawstring and the thick leather seen in the photos above to be the strap. The next thing I decided to do was to figure out what would hold the drawstring closed. At first I thought about a bead, but I didn't have anything on hand that really suited--I envisioned beads as tassels on the dangling pieces of leather, but to cinch the drawstring and hold it closed ... that was another problem.

I dove into the random metal pieces on my desk and found a beautiful steel coil just sitting there unused. It ended up being the perfect size for the drawstring! Huzzah!

At this point there were only two things left to do: line the whole purse with some sort of fabric, and permanently attach the shoulder strap. The former would prove to be a bit simpler than originally expected, but some ingenuity paid off on it.

My original idea called for lining the bag with some kind of black fabric, but what kind? I'd discussed it with my more sewing-friendly mother, and got some suggestions from her. But, as I sat, staring at the half-finished bag, I thought "hey, what about these black velvet pouches I use for my jewelry sales?" It turns out that the largest ones I have are almost the same width as the new chainmaille bag. Wow. How lucky is that? They were a bit too tall for it, but that's fixable, I figured. So, I hatched a new plan and hacked the top off of the pouch. I purposefully left it a little too tall, stuffed it inside the bag and then stuffed a piece of cardboard inside it. I used the cardboard to help hold the whole thing in shape so I could stretch the chainmaille (which would sag and slide out of place when moved around too much) over it. I pulled out some black thread and a needle and proceeded to stitch the velvet portion through the second row of rings. 

I skipped the cinching rings for one main reason: they are not welded shut. If I'd stitched through them, the possibility exists that the thread would eventually work its way through those small slits in each ring and the whole thing would come apart. At least I think that would happen faster than the thread giving out otherwise.

Once the stitching was finished, all I had to do was cut the excess fabric, finish the tassels, and permanently attach the strap.

Finishing touches

To finish the tassels and ultimately add to the finished look of the bag, I used two pewter beads and tied knots in the ends of the suede cord to prevent the beads from slipping off the ends. This prevents the steel coil from sliding off as well. Easy!

The more difficult finishing touch was permanently attaching the strap. Ideally, I considered a run to the store to pick up rivets to put through the leather, but I decided that really wouldn't match the look of the bag very well, and along with that steel coil I found, I also had a nice fat titanium coil laying around. So I tried it, and it was the perfect fit (nice and snug) over the strap. So I decided to use it as a crimping coil. Thankfully, I still had more of the same wire to create another coil and did so. It only took a few minutes to get the two coils on and crimped down. 

And that, ladies and gents, is how the bag was created. It certainly isn't perfect, and I learned a number of things along the way (including how bad my stitching ability can be! *laughs*), but I'm very pleased with the result.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New glass - part II

Yesterday, I told you that today I was planning to slump those holiday dishes -- what a bonehead I am! My plan was to run the kiln today, but on a full fuse batch. I had about 6 pieces that needed to be fully fused rather than tack fused, as I often do with glass.

I did actually get the kiln loaded & running early this morning at about 6:30am (I always start it up early so that I can empty it in the late afternoon, once it cools enough). It should actually be shutting off within the next hour, I believe, so that means that by sometime around 4pm, I should be able to peek in on my pieces & pull them out.

I've taken yesterday's pieces of glass and this morning worked nearly all of them into new jewelry designs that surprised even me! I love when something I'm dying to work into a design speaks to me so quickly, because often they take their sweet time. That sounds kind of weird, doesn't it?

Well, I guess you might be interested in actually seeing what some of these new pieces look like, huh? Well, I've got a few preview photos to post before these get listed in my Etsy shop (which should be soon). 

The photo above is a piece of glass that is flanked by gold-filled round beads and some large swarovski crystal beads. It is strung on gold-filled chain. The following is its alter-ego:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

New glass!

I'm not doing a very good job of keeping up with this blog, am I? Well, I have an excuse:  My birthday fell in the middle of last week, and one of my "gifts" was my annual trip to a single San Francisco 49ers football game (and for all you football fans out there, yes, you can laugh, because the 49ers are ... not good so far this year). Let's just say that it's a darn good thing that the SF Giants are moving onto the NLCS! *whistles* So, after a busy week and a long weekend, I'm finally back to work.

And now that I'm back to work, I have some very cool news! I have added a few new chainmaille pieces to my shop, and I also have some new fused glass pieces coming. My geometric tack fused creations seem to be most popular, and I have a few more of those in the works. I will likely get the chance to post photos here on the blog tomorrow, and maybe upload one or two to my Etsy shop.

Today was the 2nd time in a few weeks that I've actually fired up my kiln, completely filled. I'm working on a cute set of holiday glass dishes, so this firing contained one of those along with a number of small jewelry-sized pieces of glass, all of which is very geometric. Most of them have already spoken to me about where they should be used, so I've already begun the process of mounting the glass onto bails with epoxy.

Tomorrow I'm planning to slump the holiday dishes, so hopefully that goes well! ^_^ If it does, I may have some new holiday items in my shop in the coming week.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Helloooo October!

There's nothing quite like the feeling of fall ... ok, well, in California you don't necessarily get the same feeling as say... in Pennsylvania, but still! It's fall, and it's one of my favorite times of year. I love the cool crisp air, the changing colors of leaves, Halloween, and the anticipation of the holidays.

Back when I lived in Massachusetts and even in Pennsylvania, this was also the time of year that the threat of snow began to grow--and I love winter and the snow. For some reason, I also find fall to be a very inspirational time of year (probably only marginally ahead of spring), and often find myself filled with lots of new ideas. I suppose it also isn't too surprising that my birthday is also during this wonderful time of year--does that make me love the fall more? Perhaps.

I have lots of great new ideas for new jewelry projects that should keep me busy for awhile. I'm looking forward to getting back into working with metal clay again (it's been a little while since I played with it), and I have some really fun ideas that I'd like to try out.

I am also anticipating the arrival of my chainmaille supplies package--I was a bit disappointed yesterday when it was delayed in shipment, but it is already out for delivery today (yay!). I wish I had some new photos to post today, but I'm sort of stuck in creative limbo while I hunt for a firing vessel for my bronze and copper clays and wait for my package to arrive.

I should have much more to post about next week after getting some time to work on new pieces ^_^.