Sunday, 12 June 2022

Pictures of nice things

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

First up, beads. These ones are called 'Fiesta'.

I absolutely hated these when I took them out of the kiln. I was like, "What the hell was I thinking with these colours?!"

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

I still disliked them as I was cleaning them but when I’d got them all strung together I changed my mind. They're very bright and zingy.

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

Those were all the beads I got made this week. I've had one of those wasting-a-lot-of-gas-and-glass weeks where I sit there trying to make something but my mind doesn't know what to make so I end up making rubbish and getting annoyed with myself. Hopefully next week will be different.

I'm still pootling about in the garden. Things are growing and doing stuff.

The sweet peas have produced their first flowers:

Sweet peas in the morning sunshine

One of my sea holly flowers has got a definite blue tinge going on:

Sea holly - 'Big Blue'

Remus, my dwarf lupin, has yet to flower but I reckon he'll bloom any day now. The wind snapped his first flower clean off so he's a bit behind, you see. Anyway, his leaves are very pleasing to look at, especially after rain:

Raindrops on lupin leaf

My tomato plant is doing a tomato:

Tomato plant - 'Matina'

My little lavender plant that I got from the local greengrocer is looking and smelling lovely:


And the Hungarian Black chilli plant that I got from the local health food place (a lovely little cooperative that smells of hemp, dried pulses and smugness) has a few chillies on it which start off as these fabulous glossy purple flowers:

Chilli plant - 'Hungarian Black'

I've also got various seedlings growing in trays on the windowsill and I've become ridiculously obsessed with them all, making sure they're happy and warm and not too dry or too wet. I have been reading SO much about gardening it's untrue. I said I was taking gardening seriously this time and I am; I'm determined to create an actual garden. 

When I'm not concerning myself with my garden I'm nosing about at other people's gardens. The lady who lives opposite us was in her front garden planting out some seedlings last weekend and then she went away somewhere. (Yes, I’m one of those people who notices things like neighbours going away. I like to think of it as ‘being vigilant and observant’ because that sounds better than ‘being a nosy cow’.) Anyhow, yesterday morning I was doing the washing up (our kitchen looks out onto a footpath and then her front garden) and I noticed all the new plants she'd put in were looking beyond droopy. I went and fetched my watering can and headed over the way to give them a drink. I don't even know what this neighbour's name is but I felt so bad for her plants, and I felt weird for interfering in her gardening matters, but I couldn't bear to see those little seedlings dying of thirst. After I watered the neighbour's garden I popped out to Homebase to get some pots for my lavender and rosemary and by the time I'd returned all of the neighbour lady's wilted seedlings were upright and looking happy again. Hurrah!

In crochet news I'm still working on the Twister blanket. Nigel, who never used to be a lap cat but is now sometimes a lap cat, likes to come and inspect the blanket proceedings from time to time.

Nigel helping with my crochet blanket

I said I was reading lots about gardening, and that's mostly reference books and websites, but I'm also currently reading a non-fiction book about gardening called Rhapsody in Green by Charlotte Mendelson. Marian Keyes mentioned it at the end of her last book Again, Rachel (which is absolutely wonderful, by the way) and I cannot put it down! Charlotte's book is so engaging and funny. If you like gardening, and even if you don't, I highly recommend it.

Friday, 3 June 2022

Happy beads

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

My headache stayed away yesterday and I got this set of jolly-looking beads made.

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

There's something really pleasing to my eye about this colour combination of orange, teal and orange-red. It was inspired by a photo in one of my Sarah Raven catalogues of some orange and red dahlias in a teal glass vase.

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

Also pleasing to my eye are my violas. These little devils just keep on flowering and they're so lovely.


If you're in the UK I hope you're enjoying the Platinum Jubilee weekend. I'm no royalist and I'm pretty indifferent to the monarchy but there is something very nice about all the street parties and barbecues that people are having. I spoke to a lady this morning who said she was about to make a massive trifle that will serve forty people for her street party tomorrow. That is my kind of trifle!

Thursday, 2 June 2022

Stupid headache and other things

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

More spotty beads. Spotty beads are my go-to when I'm not firing on all cylinders. This past week I've had a nagging migraine-type headache that I can't fully shift. Just when I think it's gone it makes another appearance. I did that thing that they always tell you to do and went and spoke to my local pharmacist about it, who told me that I need to go to my GP if I want medication that'll actually work. Helpful. I'm convinced the headache is hormome-related as I've had the same thing happen at the same time for the past few months, it's just this time it's being stubborn. Hormones, eh?! I never mess with them but they mess with me.


I saw these glorious poppies on my way to the Post Office and pharmacy yesterday. There's a stretch of pavement where they grow, along with beautiful dusky purple ones, where the pavement meets the gardens of the houses that line the road. I nicked a couple of poppy seed heads from here last year and hopefully I'll be seeing some of the purple ones in my own garden in the near future.

Talking of the garden, we lost both of our fences to storm Whateveritsnamewas earlier in the year and in April we had them replaced with swanky new ones.

The posts are stainless steel and will hopefully last for many years. The garden has never looked this tidy (the old fences always made it look a bit shit) so now I'm determined to do actual gardening. I absolutely love the idea of gardening and I have tried so many times to grow things but it never quite works out and I get despondent, but I'm trying my very best this time.

I planted a sea holly at the weekend. I fell in love with these at the Botanic Gardens a few years ago and I've finally got one.

Sea holly - 'Big Blue'

This is a variety called 'Big Blue' and, fingers crossed, blue is what it should be in a couple of months' time. My garden assistant Nigel oversaw the hole-digging.

In crochet news, I'm halfway through yet another blanket.

Mosaic crochet blanket in progress

At least it's not a doily! I don't think I ever blogged about the doilies but for almost a year I've been fully obsessed with crocheting complex-yet-utterly-useless-to-me doilies.

Handmade crochet doily

Handmade crochet doily

I have a ridiculous stack of them and I put some of them on Etsy because I simply have no need for them. I thoroughly enjoy the making of them but once they're done I consign them to the doily stack and that's that.

Handmade crochet doily

Handmade crochet doily

I've sold a few of them to people who are actually using them, so it's nice to know that they're out in the world fulfilling their potential. I've posted just a couple of doily photos here but if you want to see more there are lots on my Instagram crochet account - joinwithaslipstitch.

But yes, back to the blanket. It's an overlay mosaic crochet pattern called 'The Twister' by GetYerHookOn. I'm using Stylecraft Special DK in the shades teal and silver.

Mosaic crochet blanket in progress

One of the things I like about mosaic crochet blankets is how you get to hide the ends in the border - no sewing them all in - which can only be a bonus.

Anyway, if you'd like the beads at the very top of this post, they're currently in my shop, along with some pairs of white and yellow spotties ...

Handmade lampwork glass bead pair

... and some ethereal teal and blue nuggets.

Handmade lampwork glass bead nuggets

Time for me to make a brew - which involves boiling a pan of water in the olden style because the kettle literally blew up yesterday and we're waiting for a new one to arrive - and to switch the kiln on. My headache is currently hibernating (I hope I've not just tempted fate) so perhaps today will be a non-spotty bead day? We shall see.

Monday, 23 May 2022

Turning beads into things

Handmade lampwork glass bead pendants by Laura Sparling

Eighteen years I’ve been making beads. That’s ages. I was twenty-six when I started lampworking! At the beginning of this I was already making jewellery and the idea was to make my own beads to use in my own designs, and I did and I do, but the whole way along I’ve been thoroughly sidetracked by making and selling mostly just beads.

Handmade lampwork bead bracelet in shades of blue
'Blue Confetti' bracelet
Handmade lampwork glass bead and elephant charm earrings
'Elephant' earrings

Oftentimes I'll have been making beads and thinking about how I would put them into jewellery and what other beads and components I'd put with them, always telling myself that I can make more of those beads and make that jewellery another time, but I never did. Turns out I don't even like doing bead remakes for myself!

Handmade lampwork glass bead and surgical steel earrings
'Lustre Dapple' earrings
Handmade lampwork glass earrings
'Pink Spotties' earrings

So I’m trying to steer it back to my original plan. I’ve been increasingly disillusioned with lampwork – not the actual act of it – but the constant trying to make something new and the feeling of pressure (from myself) to always be making what I think people will buy.Those are two really great ways to stress yourself out!

Assorted lampwork beads by Laura Sparling

The other week I decided to make beads that I would like to turn into jewellery. The photo above of a little dish of beads from a few weeks back was the result and I turned pretty much all of them into wearable things, and I really enjoyed it, so that’s what I’m going to focus on doing for the time being. That’s not to say I won’t have any loose beads for sale – I’m sure I will – but there is going to be more jewellery than loose beads. For now. Until I have another beadmaking paradigm shift. Or retire. Who knows? I’m not a planner, I just do stuff.

Handmade lampwork bead necklace
'Wood Sprite' necklace
Handmade lampwork glass earrings
'Spotties' earrings

I've got a few pieces of jewellery in my shop now, including all of the pieces pictured throughout this post. I need to make some more bracelets and necklaces as I currently have only one of each for sale, so do stay tuned.

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

CiM Testing: Goji

Handmade lampwork glass beads made with Creation is Messy Goji

Goji is the perfect name for this colour. It’s a goji berry orange-red that is not transparent enough to call transparent but also not fully opaque.

I didn’t strike the glass as such; I just made beads with it in my usual way so if there was any striking it would have happened while I was rounding up the beads and adding the spots.

Handmade lampwork glass beads made with Creation is Messy Goji

These beads have a core of CiM Creamsicle encased with a thin layer of Goji. There are slight colour variations towards the holes where I moved the glass with a brass tool, and this normally occurs with reds, oranges and yellows, but they barely show. 

The glass was smooth to work with and it didn’t shock or bubble.

Handmade lampwork glass beads made with Creation is Messy Goji

The spots on the beads are CiM Quetzal and the spacers are CiM Peacock Feather.

The beads were photographed outdoors on an overcast day.

Saturday, 5 March 2022

CiM Testing: Pizzazz

Handmade lampwork glass beads made with Creation is Messy Pizzazz

I’d been trying to save this one because it’s purple and purple is my favourite colour and for some reason I’d decided I had to keep it until last as some kind of treat but then my friend Jelveh asked me if I’d tested it yet and so I caved. 

Pizzazz was an attempt to recreate Jacaranda which was a transparent purple that had a hint of mistiness about it. Pizzazz is mistier than Jacaranda.

Handmade lampwork glass beads made with Creation is Messy Pizzazz

I’ve gone around the house with the beads trying them under different lights to see if the glass shifts colour to a more blue tone but most lights we have are LED and they don’t induce the same colour shift thing as older style lighting and fluorescent lights do so I can’t give a definitive answer on that one.

The glass itself was fine to work with. No shocking or bubbling.

For these beads I used the Pizzazz as a thin encasing layer over a core of CiM Heffalump. Because of the slightly foggy quality of the Pizzazz I thought I would get some sort of stringer reaction happening so I opted for Effetre Light Turquoise 232 stringer to test this and NO! No dark reaction lines or feathering. I really heated the scroll bead seeing if I could get a reaction line (a darker line running through the centre of the applied stringer) to happen but nope, it stayed crisp and clean. Interesting.

Handmade lampwork glass beads made with Creation is Messy Pizzazz

The purple spacers here are plain Pizzazz.

The beads were photographed outdoors in between rain showers on this frankly miserably-weathered Saturday.

Thursday, 3 March 2022

CiM Testing: Aquamarine Ice Milky & Misty

Handmade lampwork glass beads in Creation is Messy Aquamarine Ice Milky and Misty

These icy blue opals are a re-engineering of CiM Poseidon. The photo above shows Aquamarine Ice Milky on the left and Aquamarine Ice Misty on the right. As the names suggest, both are translucent but the misty version is a bit  more transparent.

Handmade lampwork glass beads in CiM Aquamarine Ice Milky
Aquamarine Ice Milky encased in clear, with white spots

Aquamarine Ice is a really lovely shade of blue and for for the milky version I encased it with a thin layer of Effetre 006 Super Clear and applied spots of Effetre White 204. The spacers are plain Aquamarine Ice Milky.

Handmade lampwork glass beads in CiM Aquamarine Ice Milky
Aquamarine Ice Milky encased in clear, with white spots

I hardly ever encase the CiM opals and I don’t know why. I think it must stem from my beginner beadmaking days (before CiM was a thing) and it was an absolute no-no to consider encasing any of the Italian opalino and alabastro glass because it would crack, so I think I got it into my head that it would be the same with the CiM opals. However, on the few occasions that I have encased the CiM opals I’ve not had any troubles.

Handmade lampwork glass beads in CiM Aquamarine Ice Milky
Aquamarine Ice Milky encased in clear, with white spots

This round of testing I decided that I was going to use the misty and milky opals for my more usual type of beads instead of plain hearts or un-encased rounds. I’ve added the thin layer of clear as a barrier so that any decoration stays neat and clean because the opals have a tendency to make stringer and spots feathery and wibbly. That’s fine because you can use it to your advantage, like I do for my ‘batik’ style beads, but more often than not I like my dots and lines to be as crisp as a Krisproll.

Handmade lampwork glass beads in CiM Aquamarine Ice Milky
Aquamarine Ice Milky encased in clear, with white spots

When testing the Aquamarine Ice Misty I thought I’d put some beads with white spots in the kiln – as a sort of sister set to the Aquamarine Ice Milky ones – but no. Obviously some knobhead (that’s me) picked up a stringer of CiM Birchwood halfway through making them so some of the beads have white spots and some have ivory ones, and now I’ve ended up with two trios instead of the intended set.

Handmade lampwork glass beads in CiM Aquamarine Ice Misty
Aquamarine Ice Misty, encased in clear, in the sunshine

Aquamarine Ice is a proper blue sky blue and when the sun shines through the misty version of it it’s very swimming pool on a summer’s day.

I didn’t find either version of this glass at all shocky and it wasn’t bubbly or scummy. Really fab.

Handmade lampwork glass beads in CiM Aquamarine Ice Misty
Aquamarine Ice Misty encased in clear, with ivory spots

Both versions are lovely but Aquamarine Ice Misty is definitely going on my glass shopping list. Hopefully I’ll be able to nab some.

All photographs were taken outdoors in the shade unless otherwise stated.

Tuesday, 22 February 2022

CiM Testing: Douglas Aster

Handmade lampwork glass beads in CiM Douglas Aster

Douglas Aster may sound like a character from an Agatha Christie novel but it’s actually a little daisy-like flower that has pale purple petals.

Handmade lampwork glass beads in CiM Douglas Aster

Creation is Messy’s Douglas Aster is a very pretty opaque pale purple that has a tiny hint of translucency to it. Only a bit – enough that when you pull it into stringer it’s not quite fully opaque.

Handmade lampwork glass beads in CiM Douglas Aster

It melted with no troubles and for these beads I encased it with a thin layer of Effetre Super Clear 006 and added spots of CiM Lapis. The spacers are just plain Douglas Aster and Lapis.

The beads were photographed outdoors in daylight.