Monday 18 February 2019

Silver Cores, Socks, Plants & Steps

Handmade lampwork glass silver core charm beads by Laura Sparling

I've been making big hole beads and I've been silver coring some of them. This isn't the first time I've done this - I've just dug out this post from 2007, and this one too, where I describe the tricky process of bashing silver tubing about with a hammer and dapping punches whilst it's surrounded by a glass bead. If you're thinking that sounds bad, it was, hence why I never made any more silver cores. I had another go at uncored big hole beads in 2008 as you can see in this post but clearly I lost interest very quickly after that.

I think what's made me have another go at big hole beads is the fact I've been making larger beads. I recently started faffing with the disc shaper I bought about three years ago but had never really used, and I found that going up a mandrel size (from 1/16" to 3/32") made the shaping of them easier. Using larger mandrels always results in making larger beads. I needed a big hole bead to turn one of the discs into a necklace so I dusted off my 5mm mandrels (I do love mixing my imperial and metric measurements) and had a play. I always say that the glass never stops teaching you things and I can tell you that I've learned a lot about the way glass moves since 2008 and now I find making neat, non-wonky big hole beads much easier than I used to. Back in 2007 I wanted to make a scrolly silver core bead but I never got there but I made this very thing happen last week. Never stop trying people! Practice and persistence goes a long way.

Handmade lampwork glass silver core charm bead by Laura Sparling

My friend Kathy (go look at her website and fall in love with her skill and brilliance) kindly let me borrow her bead liner so I could have a go at silver coring my beads and aaahh, the relief. Simple physics and pressing the silver into place works way, way, way better than beating the shit out of it with heavy tools. Now I can't stop making big hole beads and coring them. I'm only about ten years behind the times, and the local Trollbeads shop in Cambridge closed a few weeks back but hey, I catch up in the end.

In other news...

I cast on a sock on Saturday afternoon. I've not knitted socks for yonks. I've made several hats recently, none of which have been blocked or worn, but on Saturday I got the sock urge. My friend Shona (who works in a wool shop - can you imagine?!) sent me some yarn last year and one of the balls was this Opal sock yarn. I've never knitted with Opal before but it's working up lovely.

Sock knitting

I must remember to post a photo of the finished pair when they're done.

I've become slightly houseplant-obsessed. My parents-in-law gave me an orchid a while back and after some reading up on orchids I managed to keep it alive all through its dormant season and it grew two new flower spikes and bloomed again. In fact, its still got flowers, although it's started to go over a bit.

This is Harold. Isn't he pretty?

Then my friend Jen gave me a camellia for my birthday. I can't see myself harvesting its leaves to make tea because they are so beautifully green and glossy, so it lives inside and is obviously happy because it did its first flower last week. Such an amazing scent!

Camellia flower

I then got myself a chain of hearts plant to sit on top of the tall bookshelf, and shortly after that I bought my annual cyclamen plant. That's dormant at the moment but I'm looking after it in the hope that it blooms again. It's growing new leaves so that's a good sign.

I've also recently acquired a succulent and an aloe vera. I've come to think of all of these houseplants as botanical pets, all with their own characteristics, quirks, likes and dislikes, and I'm enjoying tending to them and learning about them. Our tiny lounge looks like a garden centre now but I like it.

Finally, I'm on a roll with my daily step count. I did RED January where I ran every day for the whole month and I made sure I did at least 10,000 steps a day which meant that on the days where I'd only run 1.5 miles (about 3000 steps) I went out for a walk later in the day to make my steps up and I managed to stick to my step goal for the whole month. Although I loved running every day in January, I do like my running rest days, and it's sensible to have them, so I've not been running every day this month, but I have been keeping up with doing at least 10,000 daily steps.

What I loved about RED January was the positive effect it had on my mental health. Running every day gave me a challenge, lots of endorphins and most importantly, I think, my own time to switch off from everything. We all need to do this. We spend so much time plugged into the internet and social media, staring at screens (she says, typing a blog post) and getting caught up with other people's lives and goings-on, that sometimes we forget to take a breather. Even though I'm not running every day, I treat my walks as I do my runs - on both of them I leave my phone at home, or if I want to listen to music or an audiobook or podcast I take my phone with me but switch it to do not disturb, and I don't check it while I am out. If I use my phone to photograph a duck or a flower or whatever, I ignore any notifications I see on the home screen, take the pic, and put my phone away again. This is all doing wonders for my brain. I've seen a significant reduction in my anxiety, my mood is way better and I don't get as stressed out as easily as I used to.

At the end of last year I was living in a near-on constant state of anxiety and I was having panic attacks two or three times a week. I'd been living like that for a couple of years and it was horrible. I was due to begin CBT for PTSD at the start of this year but on the day of my first CBT session I woke up in a really good mood. The thought of going to meet a total stranger and having to splurge out all my darkest experiences and thoughts to them, inevitably resulting in uncontrollable sadness and much crying, seemed absolutely mad to me, so I called and cancelled the appointment. I made myself a promise to carry on with my daily runs and walks while switching off from the world and that if I felt myself losing control of my anxiety I would sign up for CBT again. I've only had one panic attack so far this year and I was able to calm myself down by doing some exercises that I read about in a PTSD CBT book I bought, so it's going well thus far.

It's not easy to get 10,000 steps in every day when you work from home and hardly ever have anywhere to be except a 6' x 8' shed, Tesco Express or the Post Office queue. The challenge and resulting feel-good satisfaction of making my Garmin's step counter turn green every day is some kind of magic.