This week I decided to try something new:  jewelry tutorials.  I had a particular design in my head, So I took my trusty camera to the studio so I could photograph each step of the process in making them.

When I got home and viewed the photos, I realized I’d need to bring a better camera if I was going to continue doing this. For now, however, I present to you:

Sterling Silver Circle Earrings with Golden Tourmaline

Skill level:  Beginner (requires basic soldering knowledge)

Materials

2 gemstone briolette beads (I used tourmaline)
5 inches sterling silver round wire, gauge to be determined by size of hole in briolettes.  For my project, I used 26g wire.
2 sterling silver jump rings
2 sterling silver leverbacks with split loop
Silver solder

Tools

Soldering equipment – third hand, flux, paint brush, soldering block, torch, pickle (not pictured)
An object to use as a mandrel (I used a metal punch)
Pliers to hold and shape as needed
Wire clippers

Making the Earrings

1)  Wind your wire around the object you want to use as a mandrel several times

You’ll end up with a spring-like piece of wire like this:

2)  Clip the wire to make individual circles, similar to the way you would cut jump rings.

3)  Slip one of your briolettes onto a circle

4)  Make sure the ends of the circle are touching, and lay it on the solder block.  Using your brush, put some flux on the closed end. Put some flux on a small piece of silver solder, then lay it on top of the closed ends of your circle. 

5)  Carefully solder the ends of the circle closed using a small flame.  Keep the heat as far away from your stone as possible.

6)  Next, you’ll solder the jump ring on using the same solder you used to close the ends (again, use a small flame):

7)  Put it in the pickle.

8)  Using the emery stick or emery paper, smooth the area you soldered, being careful not to scratch your stone.

9)  Polish your work

10)  Your finished component will look something like this:

11)  To finish your earring, open the loop on the leverback carefully, the same way you would with a jump ring.  Attach your component and close the loop.

12)  Repeat process for second earring.

13)  Put earrings on and enjoy!

If you make these earrings, send me a photo and I’ll post it in the gallery.

All material copyright 2007 by Holly West.  The design demonstrated in this tutorial is for personal use only.  Please do not copy the design for re-sale.

Last January, my husband and I bought a house in Rogue River, Oregon so I could spend more time with my grandparents, who live very close by.  Much of the time we spend there has been taken up by home improvement projects.  On this last trip, we made an upholstered headboard.

There are lots of tutorials online for making an upholstered headboard.  Here are two I used:

http://interiordec.about.com/cs/diybedroom/ht/ht_uph_headboar.htm
http://www.hgtv.com/hgtv/dc_furniture_beds/article/0,,HGTV_3439_1391743,00.html

While we didn’t follow the instructions in these tutorials exactly, I kind of used ideas from both in our headboard.

Here’s what we did:

1)  Took the measurements for our headboard using the size of our bed (California king) and how high we wanted it to rise above the bed.

2)  Went to Lowes, found the lumber section, and asked the nice man to cut us a piece of 1/2 inch plywood to our measurements.  We also picked up a couple of 1x4s while we were there, which would be the legs of our headboard.  We cut the 1x4s ourselves when we got home.

3)  Went to the fabric store, picked out our fabric, and asked the nice lady to cut enough of it to cover our headboard, allowing for about a 4-5 inch “overhang.”  We also bought batting here, which came in a package large enough to cover our headboard (and probably a couple more).

4)  Mick figured out where the legs to our headboard would be attached.  Here’s where we made our first mistake–originally we’d intended to attach the legs of the headboard to the metal bed frame.  However, in measuring for the wood, we didn’t account for much beyond the edges of the mattress.  When we got home, we realized that if we wanted to attach the legs to the bed, the 1x4s would have to be attached to the plywood at the very edges of it.

In retrospect, we should’ve done one of of two things:  One–decide we weren’t going to attach the legs to the bed at all, or two–measure the plywood a bit bigger so that the legs wouldn’t have to be attached to the edges.  In the end, we attached them right to the edges, still intending to attach it to the bed, but when we actually set it up we ended up just resting it against the wall and pushing the bed up to it.

5)  Mick drilled holes and attached the legs to the plywood using woodscrews, thus finishing the wood frame that the batting and fabric would be attached to.

6)  Here’s where the fun part began.  I measured out the batting that would be stapled around the frame.  I wasn’t too exact about it, but left about 4 inches all around to allow it to be stapled to the back.

7)  Next, I got out my handy-dandy staple gun and stapled the batting as neatly and tightly as I could around the frame.

After doing this, we weren’t happy with the thickness of the padding, so we stapled another layer of batting around it.  Note:  Some tutorials for upholstered headboards say to attach rubber foam to the plywood using spray adhesive, then covering that with batting.  In retrospect, I wish I would’ve done that, but only because I think it would’ve felt a bit more luxurious.

8)  Finally, it was time to attach the fabric we’d chosen, which was a gorgeous taupe ultrasuede.  As you can see, we kind of had to work around the legs.  In the tutorials listed above, the legs are attached after the batting and fabric are done, which is a better method, but since we’d had the problems with the placement of the legs and knew the 1x4s would show if we didn’t cover them with fabric as well, we attached the legs first.

9)  The finished headboard, which Mick caresses lovingly:

10)  And here you have it, our lovely new bed:

Mistake #2:  We need to put another 1×4 near the top of the headboard so it all sits flush against the wall.  It’s not a big deal but it will make it feel more sold.

After being off the jewelry wagon for about six weeks while in Oregon, it was nice to get back to my studio today.  Since I didn’t have any great design ideas, I decided to do something quick and simple and came up with these earrings:

After tracing ovals on 22 gauge sterling silver, I cut out them out with a jeweler’s saw, then filed, sanded, and hammered them.  I then soldered a jump ring onto each.  I attached them to sterling silver leverbacks, and voila!  A cute pair of earrings that look really cool when worn.  They’re also very light, which can sometimes be a problem with large, dangly earrrings.

I am knitting a sweater for a friend’s child who turns one on the 23rd. 
So far, I’ve finished the back and part of an arm.

The basis of this project is the "Little Girl Big Heart Sweater" from

Hollywood Knits
, by Suss Cousins. 

This design
from her website is very similar.  Since I’m knitting this
for a boy child, I’m going to substitute the big fuzzy heart that appears in the
original pattern with something else–though I’m not sure what yet.  I’m
thinking a puppy or perhaps a "tattoo" of a heart that says Mom or something.

The pattern calls for cotton yarn, but I’m using Caron simply soft.  I
have a lot of it left over from a project I never did and it’s a good, soft,
durable yarn for children’s projects.

While I was away over the holidays, I finished my first and second pairs of Knucks:

I gave this pair to my sister, who is a U2 freak.

The second pair was "man-sized:"

My husband Mick is modeling these, but I made them for my dad, who is a running freak.

I have another pair in progress but I’ve kind of gone off them for the moment.  I sometimes suffer from knitting ADD.

I like tattoos.  I have tattoos.  I want more tattoos.  Though there are certain places on my body that will (and should) remain tattoo free, that doesn’t stop me from the temptation of giving in to my wilder side once in awhile.  The solution?  Knucks!

What is a "knuck?" you might ask?  It is more than just a glove that leaves your fingertips free–it is the opportunity to express yourself (and avoid the permanence of real tattoos on your knuckles)!  What more could a girl want?

A couple of months ago, I found this pattern at Knitty.com and I couldn’t wait to try it.  It presented a few challenges for me, however, and I’ve had to make several "test gloves" before I got it.  First of all, it is the first project I’ve done with double pointed needles (with the acception of simple i-cord).  Second, the instructions are quite detailed and invariably I’d miss something important until it was really too late to do anything about it (that is, after the ends were woven and the glove was essentially completed).  Finally, I’ve been knitting for a few years now, but I’ve not really progressed beyond scarves, ponchos, and simple sweaters.  This pattern, therefore, has been a good learning experience for me.

After numerous tries, I’m finally on the right track:

WIP:  Knucks

Knucks on Hand

So as you can see, my knucks are unfinished and are still a blank slate.  I’m not sure what I’m going to write on them yet.  Any suggestions?

Check out this "Knuck Gallery."  Fun stuff.

May all your dreams come true:

Stuart Dreams of Peace

Order Here

The image on this greeting card is based on a painting I did in 2003 called Stuart Dreams of Peace.  The original was sold at PAWS/LA’s annual art auction that year.  It’s one of my favorite paintings, both for the message it sends and for the portrait of Stuart.

One day I came into the bedroom and found my dogs laying on the bed like this:

Cheek to Cheek, Acrylic on canvas board, signed, 2001

Of course they were just begging to become a portrait.  This is another of my earlier works, but it remains one of my favorites and hangs in my living room.

More recently, I painted a commissioned portrait that bears a similarity:

Tuffy & Trudi

Tuffy & Trudi, acrylic on canvas, signed, 2005

This is another one of my favorite paintings.  I guess there’s just something about dogs snuggling together that gets to me.  And it’s all the better if it’s butt to butt.

My dog Kramer was the subject of the first painting I ever did:

Kramer Dreams of Bones
Kramer Dreams of Bones, acrylic on canvas board, signed, 2001

Never one to want to be left out, my dog Stuart demanded that he was the subject of the second painting I did:

Stuart Dreams of Dancing
Stuart Dreams of Dancing, acrylic on canvas board, signed, 2001

At the time, I was volunteering for PAWS/LA, which was preparing for its major fundraiser of the year, Pet Art. I was surrounded by a lot of pet art and was inspired to try something myself. I donated the resulting paintings to the auction and was astonished when they sold for $250 each. This gave me the confidence to move forward with painting and inspired me to open Pooches Gracias, my online pet portrait gallery (which is in the process of merging with Hollywest.com). 

About three years ago, I made it a goal to teach myself to knit.  It was a little rough going at first, but with practice I got the hang of it.  Though I’m still not an entirely confident knitter, I know my way around a pattern and while I’ve had some trouble with fit on sweaters (check that gauge, no matter HOW much you don’t feel like it–believe me–I’ve learned the hardway), overall the things I make turn out right.

I used many resources to teach myself to knit.  When one book didn’t explain something so that I could understand it, I’d go to another book or search on the Internet.  Lately, I’ve really gotten into knitting blogs and they’ve inspired me to try my own designs out.  I’m still learning though and definitely have a ways to go with that.

All that said, I thought I’d compile a list of the resources that have helped me the most in learning to knit:

Online:
Knitting Help – Possibly the best site I’ve ever used to learn to knit.  I wish I’d known about it when I first started!  This is absolutely the first place I’d go for knitting instructions.

Knitty.com – I love this website.  Lots and lots of patterns, instructions, inspiration, etc.  It’s not necessarily a beginner’s website, but novices can certainly benefit.  I am obsessed with this website!

Books:
Hollywood Knits – This was the first pattern book I got and it really inspired me!  I wouldn’t say it’s the best design book I’ve got (more to come on that later) but it was a good starting place for me because the designs are hip and the knitting directions were pretty simple to follow.

Knitting Pretty – Another pattern book with a good mix of easy & intermediate designs.

The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns: Basic Designs in Multiple Sizes & Gauges – I love this book!  It is a very good starting point for creating your own designs and once you get past the beginner stage and understand knit basics, you will almost certainly want to have more flexibility in your knitting, which is exactly what this book helps with.  It remains one of my all-time favorites.

I will be posting more about pattern books later on.  I have a lot of them, some better than others, but all inspiring in their own way.