Saturday, August 24, 2013

DIY Jeweled Lacewing Necklace

On the left is anthropologie's jeweled lacewing necklace. Made of brass, jasper, a bit of silk and a couple bits of aquamarine, it costs a whopping $548 on the website. On the right is my DIY version of this necklace, made of the same materials. Not counting the expense of tools (metal snips, metal file, hammer, anvil, metal punch) which I already owned, this necklace cost me just under $50 (and some 6 or 7 hours of labour) to make. Less than 1/10 the cost of the original. Instructions for the difficult part (the bezel-set jasper) follow below!

but first let's take one more longing look at how anthro has styled this necklace, shall we? A friend of mine did an online double-take when I said "butterfly necklace" ("...butterflies?!") but really, I think this reads as less "Mariah Carey" and more Byzantine (and I really dug the jewelry in the fall 2013 D&G runway show).

To make this necklace, you need some stuff. A fair bit of stuff , in fact.  You need 17 brass butterfly stampings. I tracked down the same ones used in the original necklace at a shop called Metalliferous. They are, hands down, the nicest brass stampings I've ever worked with - way heavier than I'd expected, they give a nice, weighty feel to the necklace. You'll also need two jasper cabochons. The large, triangular-shaped one should be about 3" wide (mine is only 2.5" wide - I struggled to find anything larger), and an oval one about 2" long (mine is only 1/5" long). You'll need sheet brass to make a bezel setting for the large jasper stone (I got mine at the hardware store. It was 0.32" thick). You'll need jump rings to attach most of the butterflies to each other. You'll need a bit of hot pink silk thread, six faceted aquamarine rondelles, 12 clear glass seed beads and 12 brass crimp beads for the butterflies that are tied together instead of linked with jump rings.

You'll also need tools: metal snips to cut the brass, a metal file to take any sharp edges off the butterflies and to file down the bezel, a hammer and anvil to shape the two butterflies that sit on the large jasper stone, a metal punch to make holes in your butterflies' wings for linking them together (some have only two holes, some have three, some have four - so if you order pre-punched stampings to avoid this step, you'll have to order butterflies with four holes punched in them and then just have a few extra holes in some of your butterflies), needle nosed pliers for opening and closing the jump rings, scissors for cutting thread, and a bit of superglue for affixing the stones to brass.
The most difficult part of this necklace (I think) is making the rustic bezel setting for the large jasper stone. Mine is not perfect, but I was able to hide some of the gaps/rough spots by careful placement of the hammered butterflies.

Here's how I made mine:
step one: trace your large jasper stone onto a sheet of paper to make a template. Cut out the paper template. Trace this shape, using a permanent pen, onto a sheet of brass.

cut around your template - but cut wider than your outline as you need something to turn up to make the bezel setting. Use your metal file to soften the sharp edges before proceeding, so you don't run the risk of cutting your fingers on the sharp brass!

using needle-nosed pliers, start bending up the edge of the brass. The tips of my pliers are touching the outline I made with my paper stencil.

Keep bending up the metal. Periodically stop and check how your stone is fitting inside the setting. When it seems fairly tight (when the stone kind of snaps into place), it's time to get ready for gluing. Before you do, however, break out your metal file and file the sharp edges (see right, above), smoothing the sides of the bezel.

I use a gorilla glue epoxy (superglue) that is suitable for indoor and outdoor use and stands up to humidity and both heat and cold. In short; it'll work under all conditions! File the back of your stone a bit with the metal file before gluing, and thoroughly brush away any stone dust. The stone will adhere better if has an uneven/rough surface (instead of smooth and polished). Fill the bezel setting with a nice big puddle of glue that is spread all the way to the edges. Press the stone in. Hold it for a minute or two (or five!) and let it dry for a few hours before you work with it anymore.

After the stone has had some time to set, get out your hammer, pliers, and file. Continue to gently work the sides of the bezel close around the stone, and file everything excessively at the end, to smooth the sides and eliminate sharp edges.

I won't walk through how to punch holes in the stampings. There are other online tutorials for that. The two butterflies that sit on top of the jasper stone have a roughed-up textural finish, and are slightly rounded. The rounding is achieved by hammering the stampings on an anvil. Hold the butterfly with the edged side down on the anvil and gently hammer. The stamping will start to gently curve up. After hammering a bit, check to see if the butterflies sit flush to the front of the jasper stone. If not, keep working them.

(Use a similar approach to get the bottom butterfly to wrap around the smaller jasper stone (then glue the stone to the butterfly using epoxy again. Don't forget to rough up the underside of the brass butterfly and the stone where it will touch, before you glue!)

When you have the proper shape, it's time to make the surface more textured: some rough filing (at odd angles) with the metal file will help achieve this look.
Here's a diagram, if it helps of how I tied together the bottom six butterflies. It's quite simple: tie a simple overhand knot near to the end of some silk beading cord (I used size 6). Slip on a brass crimp bead; crimp it. Slip on a clear glass seed bead. Put the thread through the punched hole in the butterfly and knot it tightly, without leaving any extra thread between the knot and the glass seed bead. Slip on the faceted aquamarine rondelle, and then tie tightly to the butterfly above, knotting the thread. Slip on another clear glass seed bead, then a brass crimp bead. Press the crimp bead and seed bead up against the knot and then crimp the crimp bead with your needle-nosed pliers. Then tie another overhand knot snug against the second crimp bead. Clip thread close to the knot.

And then it's done! Ta-dah!!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


This has been a summer of scrunch-dyed scarves! Here are the latest; I'm starting to get quite a pile of these folded up in a sheet of tissue in my bedroom. I want to try another one today, and reduce the amount of dye I use to create more blank space/white patches in the mix.
a recent 45" square dyed with a weak solution of oxblood red, a little bit of navy, and a bit of deep yellow
this one makes me think of a misty field of heather - or, my husband suggested, cherry blossoms on a grey day. I don't remember the dyes I used on this - I think it might have been aqua, forest green, and a little bit of oxblood?

I think I used forest and chartreuse and aqua on this one; I thought it was too bright, but all of my friends and family on facebook chimed in that it was just fine. Cass thought so, as well. He told me, "sometimes you have to go bright! They can't all be pastel!"

And here I made  a mistake and dyed a smaller 35" scarf that I'd been saving to make another one of these moon phases scarves for myself. Oops! I'll have to order another! This blackberry combo is the result of mixing navy, aqua and warm black.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


I've been so busy making things that I haven't been posting! I have a backlog of scarves, a finished painting, a cake recipe (that is three recipes in one, really), and more to post here. And instead, I'm sharing a picture of an unfinished project.

It's Herb.


Or maybe not so obviously, if you don't know him.

This is how I think of him: eyes fixed, with that absolute certainty, that hard crystalline intensity, on the vision, the idea, that thing (the thing itself!), mouth open as he enunciates, elucidates. The consummate teacher, he would listen and hear you. But it wouldn't be Herb if he didn't have something to say.

I realized I wanted to paint him at the end of the school year. I hesitated.

I don't, as a rule, paint people I know. I find that knowing people, having an emotional connection to them, disrupts the process of observation necessary to make a painting. I have a tendency to paint the person whom I think I KNOW, rather than to really look and discover.

But this itch, it kept gnawing at me. In early July,  I asked Cassidy about painting Herb. He thought it was a good idea and encouraged me to do it. I worried that I would be too emotional, that the canvas would get swamped by maudlin emotion. He said it wouldn't.

The first day I started painting, I remembered a dream I had five days after Herb passed. I dreamed of him so many nights, in so many permutations of anxiety, worry, loss and aching. This was the only happy one. We sat together at the long wood table in the seminar room in the Simpson Center on the UW campus, discussing and debating the best words, phrases, quotations to use to craft a proper farewell. We never said whose farewell, but I knew. It was my farewell.

And we couldn't settle on something. Eliot, Woolf, Donne, Moore - my brain raided that metaphysical poetry seminar like nobody's business. But we couldn't find the words.

As I painted I realized, ah, yes. Because my goodbye needed to be an image, not words.

A friend of mine, one of my "sisters" devoted to Herb, has asked me how I manage to do it without weeping. Today I realized the answer is: this is an act of devotion, like laying flowers at the feet of a holy idol. This is an offering. Small wonder I feel he's there while I work on this; this is me working with him (his memory, his image) to make an offering to that essence.

I already knew what the title would be before I began

The Immortal. Because it wasn't until Herb died that I realized that, yes, in some inexplicable way, I do actually believe he will live forever, just as he always joked he would.