Metalsmithing class: Lizzy’s necklace and my ring

A few weeks ago I started a metalsmithing class one night a week, taught by Jen from Jen Moss Jewelry. She’s set up the class in a unique way that works great for me. She doesn’t give you specific assignments, because then you end up learning techniques that you might never use, and making a bunch of pieces that may not be your style (and thus never worn). Instead, she lets you choose what you want to make, and then she teaches you how to build that piece from start to finish. It was exactly what I needed.

My first project was a ring for myself:

I should remember the name of the stone, but I don’t…..gotta write that stuff down…..

Here’s a few photos of the process of making it:

 

A pendant for Lizzy

Our son Miles has been dating his terrific girlfriend Lizzy for a year and a half now, and I wanted to make her something as a little token of affection from the family. I also wanted to learn how to cut and polish stone, so I combined the two.

First, I picked out a piece of rhodonite, and Jen taught me how to cut and polish it. Cutting it involved putting your hand right up against the rock and this giant saw, which I had mixed emotions about. Part of me was like, “OOoOOOOOO!! We’re gonna CUT ROCKS! This is AWESOME!!” Another part of me was making this mental list of all my hobbies that emphasize the having of fingers: knitting, sewing, American Sign Language, playing ukulele, holding books up in bed at 2am, the list goes on. I almost leaned over and asked Jen, “You have insurance, right?”

In practice, the stone cutting portion of the evening required more care and concentration than the excited part of me thought, but way less fear of lost digits than the nervous part of me thought. It was pretty fun, although very loud.

And then I got to use this thing to sand and polish the pieces I’d cut, and that part was the most fun:

 

After a couple hours I had these. The triangle on the left is a raw piece of rhodonite
I started with.

At this point I had the great idea to make something for Lizzy, and I decided on a pendant.

First rule of metalsmithing: nothing ever looks that spectacular at the beginning.

It was fun to stamp the back. Miles ❤ Lizzy.

Allllllmost done…..

 

Here’s the finished pendant, all oxidized and lovely!

My next project is a ring. I read Contact by Carl Sagan when I was a kid, and have loved it ever since. I also loved the movie with Jodie Foster (oh, the ham radio stuff was so great!), and I really loved how she wears her Dad’s ring after he passes away. I’m trying to make a rough facsimile of that lapis ring. I found a good stone at the Eugene Gem Faire, so all I have to do is make the ring. Easy. Maybe. We’ll see.

Fibromyalgia/CFS notes:

This class is fun, but it wrecks me every time. The night I polished stones, I went home and slept and was barely functional the next day. I had gone into this thinking I might want to set up my own studio someday, and I was buoyed by the realization that I seem to be pretty good at it. With practice, I could probably get really good at it, and wouldn’t that be fun? But the toll on my bod is pretty high. All the small, tight movements and the constant bracing of oneself against tables to saw or polish a piece is incredibly exhausting.

When the class is over I’ll probably take a break before I take another round, if I take another round (a lot of people take the class over and over, she’s had folks who have been there for years). I’m frustrated that this is so hard on my body, because it’s a blast. How often do you get to make something that you could drop in the mud, and a thousand years from now, someone could pull out, shine up, and pop on their finger/neck/wherever-they-wear-jewelry-in-a-thousand-years?

Jay and I are making a friendship sweater

If I don’t start writing this now, imperfectly and rambly, it will never get done. I’ve come to see how this is a combination spoonie/ADHD problem – I’ll have an idea for a blog post, and I’ll write half of it in my head (perfectly!) but then never get to writing the actual post at my laptop because I’m too tired or in too much pain. Or I’m completely out of executive function because of the ADHD or because of the chronic fatigue – which worsens executive function (that’s why they call it “fibro fog“). “I can’t write in that state,” I’ll think. “It’ll suck.” Maybe it will. But, as they say, perfect is the enemy of the good, and waiting until I’m clear-headed and full of energy means I’ll never get to anything.

So here we go, with imperfect blogging.

It’s SWEATER TIME. 

I’m knitting an entire sweater! Rather, I’m planning on making an entire sweater. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, as the whole point of blogging this process is to encourage myself to keep at it. Telling the internet your goals is usually a bad idea, but I’m making an exception here because the goal isn’t a deeply personal one, and because I want to connect with other knitters (HI! I’m Direcorgi on Ravelry).

If we’re going to get technical, I have knit sweaters before, but only a couple of times, and they were very tiny. It’s not that they don’t count, it’s just that my current venture will require a lot more commitment and attention to detail. I’m a slow knitter, made slower by chronic illness issues and a lifelong devotion to novelty.

Here’s the one I made for our daughter way back in 2005. I’ll replace this shot with a better one of the whole sweater, when I can find that album of pictures (see future post, “How I decided between Flickr and Smumug” to be written after I’ve made my decision). The pattern I used is a paper one I picked up at my LYS (local yarn store) when I lived in Portland. I can’t remember the name of the company that produced the pattern (does it help if I say it was printed on yellow paper?), but if I find it I’ll update this post. 

I know other babies are cute, but dang.

We’re making friendship sweaters!

We! Jay and me! This was all Jay’s idea. She texted me one day and said she’d bought a sweater kit from Bluprint (an offshoot of Craftsy), and would I want to buy the kit too, and knit it with her, and we could make friendship sweaters? She is so great. I loved this idea, and immediately said yes and bought the kit. It arrived, we spent the evening with my ball winder and swift winding up all the yarn into ready-to-go balls, we swatched and we got started……and I just couldn’t get into it. It’s a simple pattern in theory, but following it required too much attention. I like patterns I can mostly memorize and just refer back to every now and then. This wasn’t that. Every row I knit I had to watch the directions carefully or I’d make a mistake, and I just didn’t have that kind of mental energy.

I made a joke about wondering how many pairs of socks I’d have to knit Jay to make up for her taking over this project and knitting my friendship sweater herself. Halfway through a discussion of a totally different topic, she leaned over and said, “I think maybe 3,” and I laughed out loud. Can I just say: having spoonie friends is wonderful. Friends, in general, are wonderful, and my connections to the people in my life are definitely the best part of my life, but when you can feel safe to just have your struggles around someone, it’s so big. Sometimes when a friend is like, “Hey, I see you, I see that struggle, let’s just put that down,” it’s like, thank you.

Finally, I had to put this struggle down, and admit I wasn’t enjoying it. It was so slow-going, such a painful slog, that I knew I wouldn’t keep at it over time, and I really wanted our friendship sweaters to get made. I explained why I was struggling, and Jay suggested we try a different sweater pattern. One where I could just knit without having to refer back to the pattern for every row.

Enter FLAX!

Jay had knit a couple of Flax sweaters, from Tin Can Knits, already. She said the pattern is really simple. It’s actually designed to be a person’s first sweater pattern! YES!

It’s a FREE download, and it comes in a great range of sizes! YAY! And they have tons of tutorials about both their patterns and other knitting skills!

I could not download fast enough. I put the pattern on my iPad. My favorite iPad app for PDFs is PDF Expert by Readdle, I just highlight patterns as I go along. I can add notes and stuff, without worrying about damaging the pattern or losing the copy I’m highlighting.

Step 1: Swatching

Swatching has been….a little tough. I used the same yarn I got for the first sweater, it’s the right weight. But while both swatches seem to give me 4.5 stitches per inch, the swatch that was knit on 8’s (size of needle called for in the pattern, not that that matters much), came out to 3.5 inches, while the swatch on the size 9’s came out within a hair’s breadth of 4 inches wide.

Since 4 inches is the correct gauge, I ought to just use the 9’s, but I had a bit of stress about this because, for whatever reason, knitting with the 9’s was harder than the 8’s. There shouldn’t be that big a difference. If the 8’s feel okay, I don’t see why the 9’s would feel so wrong, but they did. They felt disproportionately bigger and clumsier, and I was struggling with them. It was weird, I’ll admit. When I blocked both swatches, I thought the one on the 9’s would be all huge and hole-y, but it looks just fine. You can barely tell the difference, in fact the only way I could differentiate between them was that the 9 swatch is a half inch bigger. I guess there’s my answer: learn to adjust to the 9’s. Or end up making a sweater one size smaller than I am, and……shrink? Unlike wool, I won’t felt up in the wash (with the number of hot baths I take in a month, I’d know by now). No, better make the sweater to actually fit me.

Jay, for her part, is finishing the original sweater (she’s so speedy, it’s amazing), and then she bought her own new cache of yarn for her Flax. Only this time we took it one awesome step farther: she got the same color as me. Sitting at the table, gleefully planning the new friendship sweater, she points at my ball of yarn and says, “You know, I almost got that moss color, it’s a really beautiful green.”

Me, immediately: “Yes! Get the moss!”

“Do you think that’s okay?” Jay asks.

“It’s perfect! We’ll be twinsies! And then we can get a picture of us together with them on!”

“And I’ll make us matching hats!”

“And I’ll make us matching socks!”

Our voices were pretty high by this point. Jay’s spouse was hilariously rolling their eyes.

Jay already made us cowls!

Okay, now to get those first stitches on the needles. Maybe a bath first. It’s snowpocalypse here in Seattle, so I’ll have a good few days to get started. Hopefully by the end of the weekend I’ll be able to post an update more exciting than, “Look! I got to Row 3!”

No pressure, future me!


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