Wednesday 2 August 2023

PDF Tutorials on Etsy

Lampwork glass bead tutorials by Laura Sparling

Between 2009 and 2011 I wrote a few lampwork glass beadmaking tutorials. I sold some of these as PDFs on my website but I stopped doing so years ago. Not a week goes by where I don't receive an email from someone asking if they can buy one of my tutorials so I've decided to put them for sale on Etsy.

The tutorials are for my ‘Cupcake’ beads, my ‘Roly Poly’ lentils and my ‘Flurry’ implosion beads. The latter are what have now morphed into my ‘Anemone’ beads but the technique is the same.

The PDF tutorials are the original files from 2009 to 2011. They are still perfectly readable and the pictures are clear. (Except for a couple in the Roly Poly one; 2009 digital cameras were quite naff but the couple of photos that are a tad blurry are not crucial ones.) The PDFs are slightly outdated in that some of the exact glass and tools I used may now be unavailable but that shouldn't be an issue. Please note that I can no longer guarantee the email assistance offered at the end of each tutorial.

The PDFs are only available on Etsy and they are £3.50 each plus VAT.

Monday 3 July 2023


Handmade lampwork glass flower Ditsybeads by Laura Sparling

I've always said that you never stop learning a craft. There's always new knowledge to be had, skills to be honed and new materials and techniques to try. Whenever I make a bead design that I've not done for a while I enjoy applying my current knowledge of glass to it. Oftentimes this knowledge is minor but it's knowledge that the me of three years ago didn't possess and it allows me to understand the bead better. I am aware that I'm probably sounding really wanky but I'll carry on anyway.

Handmade lampwork glass flower Ditsybeads by Laura Sparling

With these Ditsybeads there are several things required to get the effect I'm after. The most important of these is the dot placement for the petals and making sure they're arranged correctly so that when melted flat the petals stay in a nice neat flower shape and don't end up like a vague splat. The dot-melting part is also really important and it's not just a case of bringing the bead to an all-over even heat; I concentrate on one flower at a time in a very particular way.

Handmade lampwork glass flower Ditsybeads by Laura Sparling

Handmade lampwork glass flower Ditsybeads by Laura Sparling

Adding the flower centres is also carefully done so that the dot touches all five petals and then it's heated to be slightly raised but not too flat. If it sounds fiddly and time consuming that's because it is. I worked out the Actual Price* of one Ditsybead the other day and almost laughed my tits off at the thought of asking that much for it.

Handmade lampwork glass flower Ditsybeads by Laura Sparling

Anyway, all of the Ditsybeads scattered throughout this post have new homes now but there are more on the way.

*By 'Actual Price' I mean what the bead price tag should be if I paid myself minimum wage based on time taken, and also taking into account materials, gas and electricity. I don't factor in the cost of nineteen years of skill because that would be the Actual Actual Price and I would never sell anything at that rate.

In crochet news...

I finished this blue shawl last week. It was one of those patterns that was so straightforward it kept catching me out. You can be lulled into a false sense of comfort when there are so many unfancy stitches involved and it only takes one stitch too few or too many to muff up an entire row.

Blue crochet shawl

This pattern is called 'Destination Unknown' and it's by Lisa Cook of LisasAttik. I really love Lisa's designs - all those straight lines and blocks of pattern are right up my street.

Blue crochet shawl

The blue shawl is available in my Etsy shop.

This week I've been mostly...

Listening to:

Cast On by Brenda Dayne. This is a knitting podcast that I adored back in the day. I kind of stopped knitting when the whole knitting-is-racist thing occurred in 2019 and then I nuked my Ravelry account a bit later when they decided that only 50% of their users could talk about politics (Trump supporters weren't allowed to voice approval of him, and no, I'm not a Trump lover but I am pretty flipping fond of free speech) and those two things combined with the behaviour of certain knitting people I'd formerly greatly admired kind of shat on knitting for me. I think I've knitted three pairs of socks since then and crochet has filled the knitting hole. However, discovering that Brenda has got back to podcasting after a six year hiatus was wonderful. She restarted Cast On during the pandemic but I only realised this last week so I've got many episodes to catch up on. Brenda is even making me want to fish out the old pointy sticks. Maybe. We shall see.


Ashes to Ashes. Every now and again I need a dose of DCI Gene Hunt and I do a Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes rewatch and right now I'm halfway through season three of the latter.

Ashes to Ashes

We cancelled our TV licence about a year ago so now we live in telly-gone-by and it's marvellous. Anything from the now that we do want to watch (rare) we get as a DVD, digital box set or download. I do not miss live television at all.


Wild: Tales From Early Medieval Britain by Amy Jeffs

Tuesday 27 June 2023

A post about post

Mrs Goggins

This past year or so I've had more "my beads haven't arrived" emails than ever before. Most of the things I make are one-offs that I either can't or simply don't want to make again so a missing bead package always gives me the jitters.

Because of this I've made some postage and delivery changes in my webshop. These changes mean that my postage prices have gone up but everything I send out will now be insured and/or trackable.

UK Customers

Postage is calculated by the value of your order.

Orders worth up to £20.00 are sent Royal Mail 2nd Class to UK addresses. This is £1.50 per order and usually takes two to three working days. In the event of your parcel going astray we can claim the value of the beads inside it.

Orders worth over £20.00 and up to £150.00 are sent Royal Mail Tracked 48. This is £3.50 per order, insured, trackable online and usually takes two working days.

Orders worth over £150.00 are sent Royal Mail Special Delivery. This is £7.50 per order and is insured and trackable online. A signature is required upon delivery. This is a next day service.

Overseas Customers

If you are outside the UK - including all EU countries - you may have to pay import duties, VAT, other tax, postal service handling fees, or other fees, at your end. Normally your country's postal service will contact you to arrange payment of these fees before they will deliver your package to you. I am not responsible or liable for these taxes or fees - you are. Please check with your local postal service or relevant body to see what the current import value thresholds are where you live, and what taxes and/or fees you may be liable for.

Postage to Europe, America, Canada and the rest of the world is Royal Mail International Tracked and postage is calculated by the value of your order.

Postage for orders worth up to £50.00 costs £10.50. This is insured and trackable online.

Postage for orders worth over £50.00 costs £13.00. This is insured and trackable online.

In the rare event of your parcel not arriving, please contact me and we will work together to resolve the issue.

I'm back

I've recently had the longest break I've ever had from beads. I had Covid so I didn't work for a bit and then that bit turned into weeks and then more weeks. At one point I didn't think I'd go back to lampworking. I was ready to get rid of the shed and everything in it but fortunately Chris advised me to just leave everything where it was and to just wait. I seemed to have simply lost all enthusiasm for going down to the torch and glass. I stayed indoors and crocheted instead. I crocheted and I knitted and I crocheted a bit more. I even thought about going and getting a job at the Post Office. (I don't know why but whenever I've considered getting a job I always think about the Post Office.) I felt a bit lost and like I just wasn't supposed to make beads anymore. I was feeling that my beads are rubbish and boring and my refusal to 'make myself the brand' and be sucked into creating social media content - churning out videos and reels and all that guff - meant that my beadmaking days were probably over.

And then one day last month I got up and decided that I was going to go down to the shed and make some beads.

Before I lit the torch I sat and looked through my Flickr gallery and my own Instagram, surprised at just how many beads I've made over the years.

And then I made beads.

Afterwards I felt like a total idiot for feeling the way I'd been feeling.

My beads aren't rubbish or boring. I know they're not fancy sculptural beads or ones that contain inclusions and metals, or big massive focals - they are simple-looking, honed-over-nineteen-years, unfussy, small beads - but they are my beads, and that's fine.

I make beads for me. No, I don't wear them or keep them but the making of them is for me. The act of creating a bead is a little challenge and that challenge is what I love about making in general. I've tried a huge amount of crafts over the years but none of them has ever satisfied my makery urge as much as beadmaking does.

So on I go, continuing to do my own bead thing in my own way.

Pink floral handmade lampwork glass Ditsybeads by Laura Sparling

This past week I've revisited my Ditsybeads. I've always liked these even though they take a lot of faffing to get right. I timed it yesterday and each successful one takes me about fifteen minutes to make. That's quite a while for a 12mm bead. I'm such a slow beadmaker and I set myself such daft standards but again, without those things my beads would not be my beads.

Anyway, that's quite enough of the self-obsessed introspective blah-blah. Next time I'm having an "I'm burning the shed and everything in it!" drama queen moment, this post will serve as a reminder to myself to keep going.

I'm going to write a boring blog post now about new postage rates for my webshop for balance.

Monday 13 March 2023

Why have one shop when you can have two?

I'm not a huge fan of Etsy. Its fees are too high and I have issues with some of their policies and biases. However, I'm at a point where I'm selling very little and I need to get my work seen. Instagram algorithms don't help with this unless you're willing to become a videographer who spends seventeen hours a day creating Instagram content and I refuse to do that. Also, PayPal seems to be playing silly buggers with my website checkout for some of my customers, and Etsy has many alternative payment options, so I've reluctantly reopened my Etsy shop. However, I'm keeping it to just UK sales at the moment. I'm keeping my website shop open too so right now I'm Laura Twoshops.

I'll add new items to both platforms for the foreseeable and I shall just see how it goes for the next few months.

Newly added items include this 'Sweetness' bracelet:

Handmade lampwork glass and solid copper bracelet by Laura Sparling

Handmade lampwork glass and solid copper bracelet by Laura Sparling

I made some matching earrings for it. I have two pairs of these.

Handmade lampwork glass and solid copper earrings by Laura Sparling

There's also this very groovy 'Retro' tassel necklace.

Handmade lampwork glass and solid copper necklace by Laura Sparling

Handmade lampwork glass and solid copper necklace by Laura Sparling

All of these can be found in my web shop and my Etsy shop.

In crochet news...

In the previous post I mentioned that I was crocheting a shawl as a pattern test for another crocheter. The shawl is all done and is currently blocking.  I'll post a photo of the finished item when the pattern is released, which I think will be towards the end of the month. In the meantime, here's an in-progress shot of the shawl.

Crochet shawl in progress

The yarn is Scheepjes Stone Washed in the shade Coral. The yarn reminds me of when I stir salad cream into Heinz spaghetti hoops. (Yes, I do actually do that and I've done it since I was a child and yes it sounds vile but no, in actual fact it's a taste sensation.)

I'm currently working on the border of another blanket which is made up of fifty-four of these mosaic crochet squares.

Mosaic crochet squares

The pattern is the Terrazzo Afghan by
Tinna Thórudóttir Thorvaldsdóttir. I bloody love Tinna's work. She's an absolute genius.

I'll post a photo of the blanket when it's done.

See you later!

Wednesday 8 March 2023

How is it March already?

I've fallen off the blog again, haven't I? I mean, between my previous post and this one we've had Christmas and are into the third month of a new year, so that's quite a large blog pause.

I had a sad start to the year with the death of my maternal grandmother. Nannie was my last remaining grandparent so her death feels like a generational chapter closing.

Nannie and Mum (holding a very tiny me)

It sort of feels like the year hasn't really got going yet. I've been crocheting doily after doily. The doily stack has reached insane levels of ridiculous but round and round I go, adding picots and pineapples and shells and mesh in a soothing, increasing, concentric fashion.

Crochet doily

Crochet doily
'Pinwheel Mesh'

I keep trying to design my own doily but it involves maths which always defeats me and I end up throwing part-crocheted lace circles across the lounge in frustration. I will get there with a doily design, though, for I am human and will not be conquered by hooks and string.

Crochet doily
'Sunvale' - a design by Julia Hart

I've added a crochet page to my online shop, not because I want to become a doily merchant but because whenever I post a photo of a doily on Instagram someone will always comment and tell me to sell it. I know that nobody really wants doilies - I don't even want bloody doilies - but they're there in a section of my shop anyway, just in case there actually is someone somewhere who is on the lookout for a doily.

Crochet doily mandala wall hanging
'Whirl' wall hanging

Some doilies lend themselves to being mounted within a ring as a mandala-style wall hanging and I've got a couple of those for sale in the shop too.

Crochet doily mandala wall hanging
'Radiate' wall hanging

I'm still a bit in the bead doldrums. Sales are very slow and hot on the heels of the pre-Christmas postal strikes we had the barmy Royal Mail 'cyber incident' that stopped anyone posting anything outside the UK for almost two months. Both events have been a right kick in the teeth to many microbusinesses and several people I know shut up shop for good because of it.

But still I plod on, making the beads I feel like making, when I feel like making them because making beads is what I do.

Handmade lampwork glass and copper wirework bracelet by Laura Sparling
'Vintage' Tendril bracelet

Handmade lampwork glass and copper wirework bracelet by Laura Sparling
'Orchid' Tendril bracelet

I've been working on some jewellery pieces combining my lampwork beads with wirework. At the moment I'm working in solid copper because A) it's a fraction of the price of sterling silver and I can make as many muff-ups as I like without feeling bad about it and B) I just love copper. It's such a gorgeous metal, whether it's left shiny or allowed to build up a natural patina, or if you hurry that patina along. I've been patinating the jewellery I've made with liver of sulphur, or 'egg water' as I call it. (See this post for explanation.) After the piece has reached the level of patina I'm after I polish parts of it back to a shine using fine steel wool which brings out the detail of any fancy wirework and creates a lovely antique shop style finish.

Handmade lampwork glass and copper wirework bracelet by Laura Sparling
'The Blues' bracelet

Handmade lampwork glass and copper wirework necklace by Laura Sparling
'Sand & Sea' Tendril necklace

Handmade lampwork glass and copper wirework necklace by Laura Sparling
'Sand & Sea' Tendril necklace detail

Solid copper can react with some people's skin, particularly with sweat or lotions, but any skin discoloration is totally harmless and can be removed easily with soapy water. I wear a copper chain maille bracelet and have had no skin discoloration issues but then again I don't wear jewellery to bed, in the shower, or all day every day. Basically, what I'm trying to say is don't let the copper put you off. Embrace its warm tones and vintage, bohemian look.

Handmade lampwork glass and copper wirework bracelet by Laura Sparling
'Lemon Curd' Tendril necklace

I've not abandoned sterling silver totally. I had a toadstool moment a few weeks back and I turned them into pendants.

Handmade lampwork glass toadstool pendants by Laura Sparling
Toadstool pendants

All of the jewellery in this post is available in my shop. I also have a few beads for sale and a few of these, along with some older pieces of jewellery, are available at reduced prices. Head this way to the shop.

It's snowing here today. It's wet mushy snow that isn't going to settle but that doesn't matter because even at forty-five years old I still find the sight of falling snowflakes magical.

I'm going to stay in the warm today and work on a crochet shawl because I'm doing a pattern test for another crocheter. I've never tested a pattern nor crocheted a shawl before so it's an adventure. Always be making, always be learning.