25 February 2015

Braces progress

I got my braces fitted on the 9th December, and I've been amazed with the progress so far! Even after just four weeks, in early January, I had seen a lot of movement, and it was a big thing on New Year’s Day when I noticed my two front teeth no longer overlapped! And after another month there was even more progress.

I didn't have anything I would describe as pain when I got my braces. One or two teeth at a time feel uncomfortable to chew with, but not painful. And I've only felt the braces rubbing on the inside of my mouth a couple of times, so I've only used a teensy bit of the wax that the orthodontist gave me. I’ve got quite used to the brushing routine, and my dentist and orthodontist were both happy with how clean I’m keeping them.

I had my first adjustment on the 3rd February, and I decided to get turquoise ligatures this time! They are in a figure 8 shape on my top teeth this time. I also have wire ties on a couple of teeth at the bottom, and there are elastics in a couple of places at the top - both the elastics and wire ties are so difficult to see, that it took me ages to figure out exactly where they were! The first night I didn't sleep well as my teeth were a bit sore, and one of my teeth has been a bit sensitive to cold, but other than that it's been fine!
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24 February 2015


For ages I've been thinking that I need some new calligraphy pens. All I had to write nicely with in Christmas cards were some old Berol italic pens, and a fountain pen I've had since the 80s.

Then I saw this post on Andrea Joseph's blog, where she used Pilot Parallel Pens, and I just had to have some immediately! 

Part of the reason I wanted new pens was that I was getting a new diary, and wanted my writing to look good in it. Unfortunately the paper was a little thin for these pens, so I won't be able to use them for that, but I will use them for lots of other things!

From the beginning of primary school, we were taught the handwriting style of local man Tom Gourdie, so I had a good grounding for starting calligraphy. Most of the calligraphy books my mum and I have are written by him!
Here's another book that I love, The Calligraphy Source Book - it's got lots of alphabets to be inspired by. The pens themselves come with a handy sheet of calligraphy tips.

I'm loving these pens, partly because of how smooth they are to write with, and partly because of the vibrancy of the ink colours. And they have a fun feature that you can transfer a little ink from one nib to another, meaning you can create writing that flows from one colour to another. I also hope to take some inspiration from Andrea and do some drawings with them.

23 February 2015

Retrocraft: Dolls

Today I'd like to share some of my much-loved dolls, which were made by my mum during my childhood.
Suzy, a knitted doll, was one of my first dolls, and I used to carry her around with my elbow clamped around her neck all the time, so her head got a bit floppy! Pretty much every photo of me at a young age shows me carrying her. I also got told off once when I was older for hurling her around my head in the garden shouting. "Suzy the skeleton!"
Alice has a pretty pink dress and a pinafore of white fabric with tiny pink roses on it. She still sits out in my bedroom! When my bedroom was blue I made her a blue dress, but I prefer her in her original pink. Mum made a number of these dolls for friends and neighbours, all in their own unique outfits, my favourite (other than my own) being one in a green velvet dress and white pinafore. I used to love taking her next door to my friend Ann's house where we would play with our dolls together.
Finally, my Cinderella doll is a reversible doll, with her rags on one side and her finery on the other. She was a real favourite with my friends, who always preferred the rags, while I liked her white dress.

22 February 2015

Hair chain

This is the simplest project ever here on emuse! It doesn't even take a minute!

All you'll need is a length of chain (or an old necklace, like I used) long enough to reach across the top of your head, and two hair grips. You'll need another two hair grips to secure it, though.

1. Attach one hair grip to each end of the chain (if you're using a necklace, double it up like I did).

And that's really all there is to it, one step!
To attach it to your head, place one of the hairgrips at one side of your head, angling slightly upwards. Cross another hair grip across the first one. Bring the chain across the top of your head and do the same at the other side of your head with the other hair grips.

A variation is to have the two halves of the loop sit on top of your head like a crown!

20 February 2015

Recently thrifted

A new charity shop opened in town recently, a furniture shop run by the Salvation Army, and I finally got round to going for a look!

I was really pleased to find a few amazing things! First I had a look at a couple of retro mirrors, couldn't make up my mind, and will go back for a look at them another day. Then I saw two wooden shelving units, each triangular with three shelves. I didn't know where I would use them, but I had to have them! I also found a small thimble rack, and then I spotted the vintage Lotus Pottery bull to match my fat bird ornament!
I headed for the checkout, not knowing how much any of the items cost! But I discovered that the shelving units were only £3 each, and the other things were only 50p each! The bull's horns are slightly damaged, but I can't complain at that price!

I love the shelving units. I always like seeing ladders used as shelving for plants indoors, like this one on A Beautiful Mess, but I didn't have space in my house for that. However, the shelves are almost a miniature version. They are intended for going on the wall, and I probably will put one on the wall eventually, but by cutting the bottom part of the wooden struts off they neatly sit on a tabletop! 
This means they can be used for temporary displays anywhere around the house. And if I want to wall mount, I can drill the lower mounting holes between the bottom two shelves, as the holes are in the bit I'm cutting off. I managed to hide that part down the back of the desk when I was taking these photos!

18 February 2015

Beehive hair comb

Here's how to make a padded comb that can be used for a beehive or for other hairstyles that require a bit of height.

This project started when I tried to follow the fantastic beehive hair styling tutorial on A Beautiful Mess, and had a complete disaster! The padded ball just kept falling out of my hair while I was trying to pull the hair over the top! Maybe my hair was too freshly washed, or not backcombed enough, but I just couldn't make it stay there!

So I decided to work from their starting point, of a bath scrunchie (or whatever those things are called) covered with fabric, and add a method of attaching it to the hair.
You'll need a bath scrunchie, fabric in a similar colour to your hair, a comb, thread, and hot glue.

The great news is that your sewing skills don't have to be very neat, as it will all be hidden under your hair!

1. Cut a square of fabric large enough to fit around the scrunchie.
2. Sew it into a tube and stuff the scrunchie inside.
3. Sew the ends of the tube shut.
4. Sew a comb to the back.
5. Add a line of hot glue to secure the comb.

I still need a bit of practice at making the perfect beehive hairstyle, mind you!

17 February 2015

Faux sea-glass beads using polymer clay

Ever since I first saw the work of polymer clay artist Kathrin Neumaier, and marveled at the translucency of her pieces, I've wanted to try using Pardo translucent clay. I ordered some a few months back, but I've only now got round to having a play with it.

I couldn't find much information online, but I knew that to make beads that were glass-like, I was going to have to make them hollow, and I wasn't sure how to do that. Then I saw a commenter on a blog wondering whether packing peanuts would work. The next time a parcel arrived at work, I grabbed a handful, and, after running them under the tap to make sure they really would dissolve, I started to play.
1. Cut a packing peanut in half and trim to a ball shape. Using ever so slightly damp hands, roll it into a smooth ball.
2. Condition the clay by rolling it around in your hands (I found Pardo was very crumbly and difficult to condition).
3. Add a drop or two of pinata ink.

4. Roll a piece of clay flat, then mould it around the peanut ball. I found it difficult to make the clay adhere to itself, so next time I'd add some liquid clay to it.

5. Make a hole at each end.

6. Suspend the beads on wire over a baking tray, and bake. I baked at about 145-150C, for 30 minutes. The clay slightly yellowed at this temperature, but I liked the blue-green colour that resulted.

7. Immediately plunge the beads in iced water.

8. Leave the beads in the water for a while so it soaks into the packing peanut material.

9. Blow on one hole of each bead to force the soggy packing peanut material out. It probably won't all come out, though.

10. Give them a few coats of varnish.

I'm happy with how this experiment turned out, and feel that the beads are much more translucent than any I've made with other clays and other methods. But I think this method can be improved on. I would definitely make the clay thinner next time - it's very strong so it would not be a problem making it thinner. I would also add some liquid clay to make it more workable. 

I'd be interested in trying different substances to form the bead shape - I've seen someone using sugar, which looks interesting but it would be more time consuming having to make the sugar balls in advance. Maybe I could make cube-shaped ones with sugar cubes though!

I'm also thinking of making some other shapes with the clay that would not require any packing material, for example discs or cylindrical beads.

16 February 2015

Holga turret and filters

I got a new toy, and I can't wait to play with it properly! The Holga turret fits on my camera where the lens would go, and there are two magnetic discs that attach to it. One of these discs has all sorts of coloured filters, and the other has lots of split-screen effects and macro lenses.

It's got a fixed focus, so I have to get used to making sure I'm at least 0.7 metres from what I'm photographing, and to not hearing the focus beep! It's weird, because I actually have loads of dreams in which I'm trying to take photos in some fascinating place, and the focus doesn't beep, so I'll have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming when using this! I also found it quite dark when I was looking through the viewfinder.
I've just played around with some quick shots around the house, and some of them are not in focus because I was too close to what I was photographing. They're a bit grainy too, so I think it will work best in strong light. But I am having fun with it, and can't wait to try it out and about!

15 February 2015

Bunting birthday card

Here's another great way of using my carved triangular stamps! They make a simple and effective birthday card.

1. Draw a curved shape across the card with pencil.

2. Select your stamps - they should all be triangles of the same size, but different patterns.

3. Use the first stamp to stamp in the middle of the curve.

4. Arrange the other stamps around this, following the curve. You can use all one colour of ink like I did, or vary the colours.

5. Go over the pencil line with black pen, then, when this is dry, erase the pencil line. The pen line doesn't need to be neat, I was going for a hand-drawn look with mine!

6. Write the words Happy Birthday (or any other greeting) in pencil. Go over this with black pen then erase the pencil. 

7. Using a grey brush pen go round one side of each letter and each pennant of the bunting to create a shadow.