Monday, November 9, 2015


A Cacophony of Spots – Coils – Zags – Lines

Rosalie Neilson

Rosalie Neilson and I recently had some engaging conversations.  Inasmuch as I had experimented with a variety of Kumihimo patterns, her Kongō Gumi book whet my appetite even further.  The cover with the colorful binary patterns elicited a subtle tactile experience. The inscription read “For Ray – Enjoy these designs! Rosalie Neilson – and enjoy I did.

The author studied this art form in Japan in the 80’s and subsequently passed down her expertise to many new braiders throughout the years.  As she proceeded with the exploration of the 16 element braid structures, she concluded that in order to avoid a very expensive outlay of funds for the silk threads, a template would have to be created replicating the movement of the 16 element design opportunities.  Rosalie consulted with Bob Keats, developer of a weaving software program.  Together they came up with the definitive number of two color designs for the 16 element braid known as Kongō Gumi.  The total number is 1,157 designs consisting of both 1 and 8 spot configurations.

This book “Kongō Gumi” contains an amazing collection of braids featuring spots, coils, zigzags, and lines.  The historical bibliographical sections are very informative.  A tremendous amount of thought, concentration, and observation produced this book of discovery.  It further enhanced my thoughts about the multitude of paths one’s threaded adventure can take.

Monday, October 5, 2015


Many years ago my son was a pitcher for his Khoury League baseball team.  There were some euphoric moments when the ball sailed out of his hand, right on target, and the final batter was called out.  You could hear the thump as the catcher made a perfect move slightly to the left and held up the ball with his gloved hand.   The parents cheered and both catcher and pitcher grinned from ear to ear.  There were other times not so glorious, but that’s the name of the game.

The above book is a wonderful history of the outstanding catchers of this great American pastime, both for the audience and its legend of players.  And they are what legends are made of as exemplified in this book written by Bo Smolka and published by ABDO PUBLISHING COMPANY.

The greats are all here:  Gabby Hartnett, Mickey Cochrane, Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Thurman Munson, Gary Carter, Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Piazza, Jorge Posada, Joe Mauer, and Yadier Molina.  They played for all the exciting Pennant and World Series teams.  They came from various parts of the country and represented an outstanding team spirit and talent.  Regardless of the weather, crowd, or stadium, they were there time after time to get the job done and help produce a winning game.

I recently met, Noah, an eleven year old.  He is the catcher for his baseball team. Even though squatting for so many innings is sometimes hard, I could see the excitement in his eyes as he talked about his favorite baseball position.  This is a great book for young baseball team players, even those that don’t have strong knees, thighs, and great eye hand coordination.  Noah stated he was looking forward to receiving this book “The Best MLB Catchers of All Times.”  It will be my pleasure to share it with him.  Exciting game and exciting book!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Chain Mail + Color

Several months ago, I received this book from the author.  I had contacted her and explained that I had a blog site where my craft book reviews appear.  She graciously sent me a copy.  I began to peruse the book and was blow away.  The pictures, details, instructions, chain mail designs, etc., are perfection personified.  Each and every project is presented in a very well organized manner and all tools, and materials are listed.  One can also order all the supplies from the author for the various designs.  Takes away the frustration of "where to source the materials."  The colorful jewelry examples illustrated on the cover tease one to look inside and get lost in a remarkable assortment of projects utilizing aluminum jump rings, scales, and disks.  All of the designs are doable even for a novice chain mailer.  I can't wait to complete and wear the "Goddess of the Sun" collar.  It's striking elegance will make me feel like royalty.    

Friday, May 1, 2015


Beth Stone

When I think of stitching, I think of all the wonderful skeins of thread and countless embroidery stitches I learned as a child.  My interest in this form of embellishment even continued into my adulthood.  The hoops were both large and small and occupied my lap or a stand on the floor.
Interestingly enough, many of the patterns in this delightful book by Beth Stone and published by Kalmbach Books remind me of this long ago interest.  The tiny seed beads creations reintroduced me to many of my embroidery stitches such as the French knot, which to me was an integral part of the Russian spiral variations featured on pages 82 and 85.  The bugle bead bracelets reminded me of the feather stitches which I practiced on a newly starched pillow case.  I vividly remember the charming little daisy chains which I embellished on my mother’s tea towels as I viewed the jewelry presented in the various projects in this book.

Thanks to Beth Stone, many of the seed bead patterns rekindled my love of stitchery from the past, and a new appreciation of the transformation of “stitchery” with beads into the present.  Very good explanation of various types of seed beads and supplies needed to start and complete all of the projects. 
This book definitely offers the young and old beader “creative variations on traditional techniques” using the peyote stitch, brick stitch, right angle weave, and tri and quad stitches. 







Thursday, April 16, 2015

Decorative Wire Findings

Have you had trouble finding the right method or material to finish one of your creations.  On several occasions the right finding just isn't "right."   Completed, or should I say incomplete  necklaces, bracelets, and earrings spread out on my bench, eager to become a treasured accessory, to no avail.

"Decorative Wire Findings" recently came to my rescue.  Published by Kalmbach Books, and authored by Melody MacDuffee, it has a plethora of "how to" create custom clasps, connectors, and more.  The instructions are very easy to follow and full blown up photos of completed projects are presented in "living color" at the start of each and every project.  All tools and materials are listed in a box next to the various designs.  After perusing the book, I was inspired by the variety of choices I had to "close" this jewelry chapter in my inventory.  
There are various segments at the end of the book starting with "TECHNICAL  BASICS and continuing on with beautifully illustrated and explained COMPONENTS, CLASPS AND CLOSURES, BAILS, WRAPS AND CAPS, LINKS, CONNECTORS AND SPACER BARS, BEZELS, PIN BACKS, and WIRE BEADS.  There is also a most helpful resource list provided in the book. 

Dilemma solved!  No more half-finished jewelry pinning for an end to it all.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The clasps from Claspgarten are both functional and beautifully designed.  The ones, enhanced with Swarovski crystals, sparkle like a queen's tiara.  Both the artisans using these clasps and the purchaser of one of their creations would be the recipient of something very special.
I have been invited to participate in a juried exhibition "Maturity and It's Muse."  My design consists of a series of 11 aught Miyuki seed beads in 22 kt. gold.  Claspgarten has provided me with many wonderful choices for closures.  Even though the clasp will be at the back of the neck, I am tempted to design the piece so one of the exquisite clasp becomes the focal point.
Are you tired of the same old peyote toggles for your beaded bracelets and necklaces?  Claspgarten has solved the problem.  Their site has an exciting selection of perfect clasps for your beaded projects.  These rectangular forms have a concave section where one can glue in seed beads to finish off their jewelry concept.  
Hopefully your local beading and jewelry supply stores sell these unique clasps.  If not, please share this information with them so everyone will have an opportunity to avail themselves of these "true to form" lovely products.     

Thursday, March 5, 2015




The expression "there is lite at the end of the tunnel" is true.  Like many in the beading and jewelry making community, working with small links and beads really was a challenge.  My labors of love, became tortuous.  The small holes in the 15 and 11 aught beads tumbled about on my mat board as if to say, "I dare you to enter."  Their bright colored surfaces beckoned me, but the small holes daunted me.
Recently a lite in white shinny armor appeared, delivered by UPS. This was the answer to a handmaiden's dream.  The Ottlite 13w Slimline Task lamp seduced me.  It enabled me to see clearly and comfortably as I approached each new bead design.  I discovered that it projected a natural daylight illumination and help reduce glare and extreme eyestrain.
The above model is quite reasonable in price as are many of the other Ottlite products.  In fact, I was contemplating hiring an electrician to put in additional lighting fixtures in my studio.  Saved myself a lot of money and many of my beadwork projects have been completed. 
Many thanks to the Ottlite at the end of the tunnel.