Thursday 22 September 2022

Giveaway winner

It's time to announce the winner of my giveaway.

I've done the writing the names down, folding the names up and shaking them all about in a heart-shaped ramekin thing (because why not?) and then I got my glamorous assistant (Chris) to stir them all up again and draw a winner and that person is *triumphant trumpet parp noises*...

Tina G, please contact me using this form and I'll get back to you to sort out delivery of your beads.

Everyone else, thank you so much for entering - I really appreciate it. I know that that blog commenting can be a work-up so I'm very grateful that you could all be bothered to join in. I'm going to do another giveaway next month so do please check back or sign up to my mailing list for news of that.

Wednesday 21 September 2022

'Daydream' shimmy bracelet

Handmade lampwork glass bead charm bracelet by Laura Sparling

There was going to be two bracelets today, one of them a gold one, but the gold chain I ordered is way too chunky for my liking and the beads don't sit nicely on it so I've sourced some other chain elsewhere and am now waiting for it to arrive, so it's just this 'Daydream' one instead.

Handmade lampwork glass bead charm bracelet by Laura Sparling

The colours in this shimmy bracelet remind me of sweets, fizzy bath bombs, pink-toned sunrises and unicorn-related gubbins. The glasses I used for this one are CiM Douglas Aster and Dollhouse Milky, and Effetre EDP 254, Light Sky Blue 224 and Dark Lavender 081.

Handmade lampwork glass bead charm bracelet by Laura Sparling

All metal is high quality silver plated base metal which is lead-free and nickel safe. The bracelet is in my shop as I type this. I've reduced the prices of a few jewellery items so do pop over there and have a look-see.

In other news, it was my birthday on Saturday. Chris and I had a quiet day but on the Sunday we met my littlest sister, Emily, and her fiancé, Adam, in London as they'd got me tickets to see Ash as my birthday present.

The gig was to celebrate the 21st anniversary of their album Free All Angels which means that it's been twenty-one years since I last saw them, which was in Cardiff when the album was new.

Em and her youthful glam face,
me and my aged un-glam one

The gig was at the O2 Forum in Kentish Town which is a lovely little venue. The show was great and a highlight for me was Ash playing A Life Less Ordinary which is, as Emily would say, a banger.

If you've not enetered my prize draw yet you've still got time; I'll be drawing the winner of the lonelies beads tomorrow. Head this way to add your name to the hat.

Friday 16 September 2022

The humble plain spacer bead

Icy blue handmade lampwork glass bead bracelet by Laura Sparling

One of the things I like about these shimmy bracelets is how they take the humble plain spacer bead to a new level. I have so many oddments of glass and of those some is glass that works best on its own without any decoration, or because it's fussy and doesn't play nicely with other glass. That's where spacer beads come in.

I'm trying to not buy glass (except for clear and a limited range of staples) so I can work through all my odds and ends, and making spacers is a great way of doing that, so expect lots more of these shimmy bracelets. Also, because the beads are small, simple and fast to make, I can keep the costs of the bracelets down. (I make my spacers one at a time, one per mandrel, though. I've never got on board with making loads of them on one mandrel.)

Icy blue handmade lampwork glass bead bracelet by Laura Sparling

As I said a couple of posts back, sterling silver is becoming almost too expensive so this shimmy bracelet is made with high quality silver plated base metal findings. If I'd used sterling it would cost a huge amount and the weight would mean the bracelet would need to be hallmarked. I've never gone down that route and I don't intend to because I'm a beadmaker, not a silversmith.

I've got some gold plated findings arriving soon which I'm quite excited about because I've hardly ever paired my beads with gold metal. 

Icy blue handmade lampwork glass bead bracelet by Laura Sparling

The beads in this 'Glacier' bracelet are made from a third of an unlabelled rod of CiM transparent aquamarine blue, a very skinny and therefore annoying to use rod of Effetre Antique Green 852 and some Effetre Light Turquoise filigrana.

I also made this pair of earrings the other day. Again, just two plain little spacers in glorious Double Helix Theia which, in my opinion, is the best and prettiest purple glass you can get right now.

Purple handmade lampwork glass bead earrings by Laura Sparling

The greenish-blue disc beads are tiny Czech glass ones that I've had in my bead stash for eons. All metal in these earrings is sterling silver. 

Purple handmade lampwork glass bead earrings by Laura Sparling

The bracelet and earrings are in my shop.

Thank you to everyone who has entered my prize draw so far. There are way more of you than I thought there'd be so that's fab.

If you haven't yet entered, please head this way for more details and to add your name to the draw.

Thursday 15 September 2022


Lampwork beads giveaway

I cannot recall the last time I did a giveaway so I reckon that means one is long overdue.

The prize is this strand of lonelies. They're just leftovers and colour experiments; all are first quality beads.

Lampwork glass beads prize draw

If you'd like a shot at winning the beads all you have to do is comment on this post. I know, I know – leaving blog comments is long and arduous compared to liking and tagging on Instagram but it's only a few more clicks/taps and key strokes.

Please read the following before commenting:

• You'll need to give me a name in your blog comment for me to add you to the draw. If you're using a Google account to comment your name will show up but if your comment is anonymous I won't include it in the draw unless you've given me a name as part of your comment. You can use a real name, initials or something made up. Comments along the lines of "Would love to win, Jane B" or "Please enter my name in the draw - Mrs Tiggywinkle" are great. 

• I manually approve comments so don't be alarmed if your comment doesn't show up for a little while.

• Anyone anywhere can enter.

• I'll draw a winner on 22nd September and I'll announce who that winner is here on my blog so you'll need to check back to see if it's you. I'll then ask you to email me so I can get a delivery address from you.

Good luck!

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

I'm thoroughly enjoying blogging again in this quiet corner of the internet – I feel like Ruth Goodman going back in time to live in a Stuart era farmhouse or something – and I really appreciate you joining me here. That's kind of why I'm doing this giveaway – it's a thank you for taking the time to come over here and partake in olden days technology all because I'm a moaning, contrary grump who is eschewing the noisy world of Instagram. I'm guessing about four people will enter this draw so your chances of winning the beads will be pretty high. 

If you're new to my blog, or if you've not been here for a while, hello! If you're viewing this on a desktop or a tablet you will see a sidebar on the right. (If you're looking at my blog on a smartphone, scroll right down to the bottom and tap 'view web version' to see the sidebar.) In that sidebar is a list of of my 'how to' blog posts, a link to all my Creation is Messy testing posts, my blog archive, and a very small list of blogs that I follow. Are you a blogger too? If so, give me a shout.

Wednesday 14 September 2022

Looking after your jewellery

Looking after and cleaning handmade jewellery

I enclose the following information with jewellery that I sell but I thought I'd put it here for reference.

Looking After Your Jewellery

When you’re not wearing your jewellery, keep each piece in a plastic grip seal or soft fabric bag. Store in a dark place. This will reduce the chances of your jewellery tarnishing and keeps it from getting scratched or tangled. Handle your jewellery carefully and keep it away from perfumes, lotions, hairspray, household cleaners and chlorine.

Cleaning Your Jewellery

• Plated Metal Jewellery

If your jewellery is zinc alloy, brass or pewter with a silver, gold, rhodium or antique copper plated finish, dip a soft cloth in some lukewarm dish-soapy water and then gently rub your jewellery with the cloth while keeping it submerged in the water. Dry the jewellery with a clean cloth, or allow it to air dry.

• Pure Copper Jewellery

Pure copper tarnishes over time but this can look lovely so you might not want to clean it. If you do, add a teaspoon of salt to some white or malt vinegar, or lemon juice, and soak your copper jewellery in the mixture for a minute or so. Remove the jewellery from the solution and then rinse it with cool or lukewarm water. Do not use very cold water or hot water as this could potentially shock the glass and cause it to crack. Dry the jewellery with a clean cloth, or allow it to air dry.

• Sterling Silver Jewellery

Sterling silver can be cleaned in the same way as plated metal. If it is heavily tarnished you can use a sterling silver cleaning solution or special silver polishing cloth. These are available in supermarkets and jewellers.

• Surgical or Stainless Steel

This beautiful metal only gets better and shinier with age and wear. If you do need to clean it, follow the instructions for cleaning plated metal.

IMPORTANT: Never clean jewellery that contains glass beads using the boiling water, bicarbonate of soda and tin foil method, as you might shock the glass and cause it to crack.

Tuesday 13 September 2022

Making a shimmy bracelet

Handmade lampwork glass bead bracelet by Laura Sparling

I thought I'd show you how I make one of my shimmy bracelets. Obviously this is just a chain with beads attached to it so it's really nothing fancy or revolutionary but I've made many of these over the years and I wanted to show you how I've streamlined the process to make quite a long and repetitive task a little bit faster.

I've watched many Adam Savage videos and he's very methodical in his approach to making and assembling. Although I'm not creating movie prop replicas or costumes like Adam does, I have picked up many helpful tips and pieces of advice from watching him. For jewellery assembly I am a big fan of what Adam refers to as 'order of operations' which is working out the best and most efficient order of doing things to complete a task in the fastest and most logical way. If you want to learn more about this I highly recommend Adam's book 'Every Tool's A Hammer: Life Is What You Make It' which I reckon is a must for any maker.

For a shimmy bracelet I get all the components I need and set them out on my work surface.

First up, beads.

How to make a beaded chain charm bracelet

These are an assortment of simple lampwork spacers I made in four shades of pink.

Next, findings.

How to make a beaded chain charm bracelet

These are all antique copper-plated brass, except for the clasp which is lead-free pewter. I've gathered quite the collection of antique copper-plated findings and components over the years and now seems like a good time to use them because much like Lurpak butter, the price of sterling silver is getting ridiculous. Sure, brass costume jewellery may not weather as well as sterling silver wearables, but it still looks nice and enables me to charge lower prices. Besides, if Vivienne Westwood can sell brass jewellery (we bought Robyn a Vivienne Westwood bracelet for her 18th) then so can I.

My first job is making the bracelet base from a length of chain, some jump rings, a clasp and a bead dangle.

How to make a beaded chain charm bracelet

Next, I thread all of the beads on to headpins, topping each one with a copper round bead.

How to make a beaded chain charm bracelet

I then create the first bend of the wrapped loop.

How to make a beaded chain charm bracelet

I do this for all of the beads.

How to make a beaded chain charm bracelet

I then work through all the headpins again, this time making the loop.

How to make a beaded chain charm bracelet

By doing this one-task-at-a-time thing I'm not constantly threading beads, putting one pair of pliers down and picking another one up. The repetitive nature of each job also enables me to be consistent so that my bends, loops and the resulting wraps will all be even.

How to make a beaded chain charm bracelet

Next, I attach each headpin to the chain and wrap the loop. I trim off the excess wire and after all the beads are attached to the chain I work along the bracelet, tucking the wire ends in and straightening everything up.

How to make a beaded chain charm bracelet

I timed this whole bracelet assembly; from gathering all the parts to finishing the bracelet took me an hour and a quarter. Not bad going for all those wraps.

Handmade lampwork glass bead bracelet by Laura Sparling

I don't know if any of what I've shown and written here will be of use to you. If you're already a fellow order-of-operations devotee then I'm giving you a knowing nod. If you're not, give it a go. It's amazing how much time you can save by calculating the most efficient way of doing something in order to become a one person factory-style production line.

Handmade lampwork glass bead bracelet by Laura Sparling

If you like the look of this very pink 'Candyfloss' shimmy bracelet, it's in my shop.

I'm going to be doing a bead giveaway here on my blog in the very near future, so please do bookmark me or check back soon.

Monday 12 September 2022

Jewellery. Beads. Hair.

Handmade lampwork glasss bead bracelet by Laura SparlingHandmade lampwork glasss bead bracelet by Laura Sparling

I can see my blog post views slowly going up so that's pleasing to me. Hello to anyone out there reading (I'm actually waving at you) and thank you for popping by.

I spent most of Sunday making bracelets. I'd made a heap of simple spacer beads and a few spotty ones, all in whites and clear, and I had no particluar bracelet designs in mind for them so it was nice to sit and faff about. I ended up with what I've always referred to as a 'shimmy' bracelet.

Handmade lampwork glasss bead bracelet by Laura Sparling

These take quite a while to make due to all those wrapped loops but the end result is always worth the effort.

Handmade lampwork glasss bead bracelet by Laura Sparling

Shimmy bracelets feel so lovely when you're wearing them and they make an amazing glassy rattle as you move.

And I also made a very simple, quite dainty bracelet by stringing a few of my beads with some seed beads and Preciosa crystals. 

Handmade lampwork glasss bead bracelet by Laura Sparling

Handmade lampwork glasss bead bracelet by Laura Sparling

Both of these bracelets are in my shop.

I had a sort out of one of my lonelies jars and I've added a strand of those to the shop as well.

Handmade lampwork glasss beads by Laura Sparling

I do like a strand of lonelies because they make me put beads and colours together that I never normally would and this can often spark new bead and jewellery ideas.

In non-bead news, I had my hair cut last week. I last had it cut a year ago and it was far too long and was taking me an age to wash.

I'm going greyer and greyer and I love it. I've had greys since my early twenties and I dyed my hair for years to cover them but I stopped dyeing it about six years ago because I just couldn't be arsed. Two days after the mess and time of a dye job a grey hair would be sat there laughing at me, so I gave up. My hair is how it's supposed to be at this moment in time and that's fine by me.

In crochet news, I finished the doily I was making and I just need to block it. Chris is currently using the available floor space to take photos of Blake's 7 spaceships that he's made so I'll have to wait for when his photo set-up is away until I can deploy my blocking mats. Our house is very small, you see. Both of us are in making mode all the time so we take it in turns to clutter the lounge up with stuff.

Right, I'm off to make some mandrels and then beads. Have a good Monday!

Saturday 10 September 2022

A quiet bead week

Handmade lampwork glass bead bracelet by Laura Sparling

I've made beads this week but I'm only just getting round to doing anything with them. This morning I made this bracelet which I've called 'Thames'.

Handmade lampwork glass bead bracelet by Laura Sparling

The beads are smooth pebble-type ones in a transparent greenish-grey, each wrapped with a band of silvered ivory.

Handmade lampwork glass bead bracelet by Laura Sparling

Handmade lampwork glass bead bracelet by Laura Sparling

The bracelet fastens with a magnetic clasp (always feels space age) and it's in my shop as I type.

I spent last weekend in Hedge End celebrating my niece Robyn's eighteenth birthday. At the risk of sounding like an old biddy, I cannot believe how fast those eighteen years have gone. I was even more incredulous when she was waiting for me at the railway station. In her car. Which she drove me – her forty-four year old auntie who cannot and will not drive – to my sister's house in.

Liverpool Street underground station roundel
I can never resist a roundel

It took me two full days to recover from my weekend away. The trains were all to cock which made my outward journey over five hours. I had to go via Liverpool Street rather than my beloved King's Cross. I'd planned to go for a quick first journey on the Elizabeth Line but nope, that plan was scuppered for time reasons. But yes, ten hours of travel and doing the socialising get-together thing really knackered me out. That makes it sound like I didn't enjoy myself but I did; I had a lovely, lovely time. It's just I've become so used to it being just me, Chris, Nigel, and seeing three other people every Friday at the foodbank warehouse, that all that going places and seeing many people was very different.

All that travel did give me time to get a chunk of The Ink Black Heart listened to, though. I finished it last night and I absolutely loved it. I've seen a lot of people complaining that they can't get on with the formatting of the book as it contains a lot of transcripts of tweets and chat room exchanges. Reviews for the audiobook are similar but I honestly didn't have an issue with it. I've already started my second listen.

Many of the tweets and transcripts of online discourse in The Ink Black Heart are uncomfortable to listen to or read. If you're at all familiar with any of the threats and abuse that JK Rowling herself has been on the receiving end of these past couple of years, it makes the listening to or reading of parts of the book even more uncomfy. Social media is a problem. It has its uses but what it is doing to some people, and the knock-on effect that it has in real life, is deeply concerning. Never have I felt this more than I have the last couple of days on Twitter. I knew the social media problem was bad (and I could elaborate and go on forever here but I won't because it's just me and about two other people reading this blog) and that some people's moral compasses are truly broken, but the atrocious takes on the Queen's death and the way in which some people have spoken to others about her and the Royal Family is utterly disgusting. Personally, I find endless news stories of royal weddings, births, scandals and arguments quite tedious and I barely pay them any attention so yeah, I'm pretty much indifferent to all things royal. However, I was moved by the news that Queen Elizabeth was gravely ill and when it was announced that she'd died I felt sad. Many people have said it but the Queen has always been there. She was a constant, and for that to be no more feels slightly unsettling.

What really bothered me on Thursday and Friday, though, was seeing people second guess themselves with regard to showing how they felt about the news. I saw many tweets along the lines of "I'm not a royalist but... I'm upset she's gone/I feel sorry for Charles/it's the end of an era" etc and I saw people liking tweets but clearly not saying what they wanted to say for fear of being jumped on, ridiculed, unfollowed or blocked by people who had zero qualms about voicing their opinions on the matter. These people are so sure of themselves and the fact that they're on The Right Side of History™ they feel that they can abuse and belittle anybody who doesn't agree with them and who isn't a subscriber to whatever ideology they are. I say ideology because whenever I looked at the Twitter profiles of any of these shouty, righteous types, they all displayed labels – be it an identity flag, an '-ist' of some kind, a symbol like a red rose (socialist) or purple, white and green hearts (gender critical feminist), vegan, preferred pronouns, 'FBPE' (anti-Brexit) or the dreaded '#BeKind' – that show they are in thrall to some particular set of beliefs. I know a lot of people will consider some of those things I've just listed to be harmless, but I don't see it that way. The need to label yourself and others as belonging to this group or that way of thinking is dividing society into little factions who cannot accept any way of thinking that doesn't one hundred percent match theirs. Anyone who does think differently to them is called a bigot, far right, Nazi, white supremacist, TERF, bootlicker, and so on. The very fact that I can predict with very high accuracy the phrases and insults that one person will chuck at another after they've written something really edgy like "RIP Queen Elizabeth" shows that these are indeed dogmatic belief systems and my word, am I sick of it. 

And for what it’s worth, the only things I'd label myself are 'atheist' and 'realist' but I don't feel the need to state them in a social media profile.

Technology has evolved way faster than our abilities to cope with the sociological results of it have, and we aren’t equipped to interact with as many people via social media as we are expected to. As a result, quite a few people seem to have forgotten how to be human. If you feel sad about the Queen dying, say so. Don't back it up with a disclaimer about not being much of a royalist. And if you are a royalist and you have a large collection of corgi ornaments and commemorative Diana plates, that's cool too. Just say how you feel. If people disagree with you, let them. Just be you. Honestly, those three words are my life advice to anybody. Just be you. Some people will like you and some people won't and that's just the way it is, both online and offline.

Anyway, that's enough of me wanging on about the ills of social media. And if you think it odd that I clearly despise what Twitter is doing to us all yet I'm on there joining the noise, that's because the only way to fight this shite is to push back against it at the source. It's not always fun and I have to be in the right frame of mind to do it, but do it I shall. Well, until I get my account suspended for wrongthink, that is.

Thursday 1 September 2022

New items of glassiness

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

These are a bit green, aren't they? Effetre Sage Green 019 (which isn't anything like a sage green) is one of my favourite greens. The opaque green here is CiM Meadow. The two of them together make me think of woodland and trees.

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

I've also made a couple of strands of some good old spotty beads. These are CiM Aegean encased with a thin layer of clear, decorated with Effetre Light Turquoise 232 spots. The clear encasing layer may seem pointless but it definitely adds something to a bead. A bit of depth, I think.

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

The spacers here are CiM Peacock Feather.

At the end of yesterday's shed session I had a few dipped mandrels left so I faffed about with some frit beads. I ended up with a few of them and amongst those few were a matching pair so I've made them into earrings. 

Handmade lampwork glass bead earrings by Laura Sparling

The beads are Effetre Dark Lavender 081 and the frit is one of the first frits I ever bought - Val Cox's Light Iris Blue. I've left it slightly raised for texture and I reduced it to a silvery-blue metallic sheen.

Handmade lampwork glass bead earrings by Laura Sparling

The little flowers are silver-plated pewter. I showed Chris the finished earrings and he said the flowers look like the Demogorgon off Stranger Things which isn't exactly the vibe I was going for but I'll take it.

The beads and earrings in this post are all available in my shop.