Wire Wrangling

The blog has been quiet for a couple of months, but I’m still here!  Summer was full of travel and adventure with the family. But now that school is back in session, I’m back in my studio and my inspiration batteries are recharged!

We crafty folk are painfully aware that there are “so many crafts yet so little time….”  And just like so many others, I’ve got more crafts I’d like to try (and supplies for them to boot!) than time to learn and do them.  So as I settle back into my studio for a season of creating, I decided to give myself a treat that would also kickstart my creativity. I gave myself 2 weeks of design time to experiment with a new skill I’ve wanted to try forever: Wire working.

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I didn't have to start from absolute zero. Earlier this year I went to a conference hosted by Craftsy and met the most remarkable woman. I kept seeing her during the day, and couldn't keep my eyes off her magnificent wire necklace.  Of course she’d made it - she was a wire working instructor! I didn't know then that this was Brenda Schweder, instructor of Essential Wirework Techniques.  (Above is the necklace she was wearing, by the way - so sculptural and gorgeous - it’s the next project on my list.)

At lunch I snagged a seat next to Brenda and let her know how much I’d been admiring her necklace. I also confessed how much I wanted to start wire working but how intimidated I was by all the choices of tools and materials. Brenda was so kind and offered to help me get started. She even sent me one of her inventions to play with: Now That’s a Jig.  Her jig (as well as her videos and book) pretty much made my learning curve painless. The jig is an impressive invention, and it’s the only jig really capable of handling 16 gauge annealed steel wire.  (Take a look at Brenda's Etsy store to get a jig of your own and like the Now That's A Jig FB Page to get inspiration in your news feed. She also broadcasts three times a week [M, T and TH @ NoonCentral] from her jewelry FB page)

Not only did I watch her most excellent online class, but I devoured her book Steel Wire Jewelry as well. And then I watched her new DVD ABC’s of Wire Wrangling recently published by Interweave (available as an immediate download too!). Brenda is a huge fan of annealed steel wire. What's so cool about this material is that it's inexpensive and commonly available.  It was less intimidating for a beginner like me who didn't want to risk mangling expensive fine metals.  I also love the edginess of it. It’s unpretentious, yet solid and so strong. In my opinion, it looks even better when you ding it up. Like an artifact from an archeological dig.  It's got a primal aspect: Definitely not prissy bling.  According to Brenda it's one of the least allergenic metals as well. Composed of just iron and 2% carbon, there's no nickel (the usual culprit with metal allergies).

So armed with my jig and my learning materials, I set to work. I’ve had an idea for a while now for a row counter abacus that could be jewelry. But then at a moment's notice it could be conscripted for work in counting rows.  I wanted something non-fussy and simple that wouldn't snag knitted or crocheted material. I also wanted to be able to hook it into the project or dangle it from a knitting needle like a stitch marker.  I wanted a sturdy and elegant piece of utilitarian jewelry for knitters and crocheters alike.

After working through countless prototypes and ideas, this is what I settled upon. I've spent the last few days producing a limited run of this new row counter abacus and we've offered it for sale on the website. The beads move to allow you to keep track of 19 rows at a time. If I make more, it will be in other bead choices (any requests?). But for the near future, I'm going to get busy using my new row counter as I come up with some new knit and crochet designs!