September 14, 2014

Making WoolyWire

I am often asked what goes into the making of WoolyWire. What may on the surface seem like a simple product actually entails many steps, from processing raw fiber to final application on wire. I'm going to let my daughter Nellie Thomas - the creator of WoolyWire - describe the process for you. I think you will find it as fascinating as I do. ~ Karen

Obtaining and Preparing Fiber

The first steps involve cleaning and preparing fiber. Most of the fiber comes from wool, from sheep like the one in the photo below. I obtain fleeces from fiber shows, and I also reserve fleeces every year from sheep that I know produce good wool. The ones I like to reserve are at Nistock Farms in Northern NY. My two reserved sheep are Pearl, a full-breed Cottswold, and Ash, cross-breed Cottswold / Border Leicester (I don't have pictures of Pearl and Ash, but below is a picture of Duke from the same farm). When sheering time comes, I am guaranteed fleeces from my reserved sheep. I also use other fibers, like angelina, bamboo, and silk.

Fleeces ready to be processed.

Once I have cleaned the fiber, I sort it and prepare it for dyeing. In addition to wool, I dye other fibers as well, such as bamboo and silk.

Next, I sort all my dyed work start assembling color and texture palettes. This is preparation for making an Art Batt...

Making a Art Batt

Here's a picture of my drum carder; the fiber is placed either in the tray in which the smaller drum will pull the fiber onto the larger drum or the fiber can be placed directly onto the larger drum. Typically finer fibers such as angelina, bamboo, or silk will be placed directly on the larger drum:

This is the fiber gathered in preparation for making the batt; it is helpful to plan a color scheme ahead and have all of your fiber ready next to the carder:

Here is what the fiber looks like once I have it all on the drum carder; it is a lot like painting!

Here is what the batt looks like having just been taken off the carder:

Here is the batt being prepared to be rolled for neatness:

Finally, here is the batt in its final stage, ready for spinning:

Spinning WoolyWire

I don't have a picture of the above batt made up into WoolyWire... but here is a different one I made and the Woolywire I spun from it:

My trusty spinning wheel... and my mom's pup Casey. =)

Next I felt the WoolyWire so that the fiber stays put on the wire. Then finally, comes cutting and packaging. Lots of steps from sheep to final product, but so much fun to see the end result. I especially love working with color. I hope you enjoyed this little behind-the-scenes glimpse of WoolyWire!

September 13, 2014

Quick and Easy Photo Editing

Somethings in the beady business are always evolving and changing for the better… I feel like just when I reach a point I'm happy with something, I come back a few days later to realize that there's one more thing I could do to make it even better. Right now that something is my shop and blog photography.

I'm in the process of adding a lot of new beads and components to my shop and re-photographing many of the older ones. There are sometimes slight changes in my bead-making technique or painting… or (very annoyingly!) one of my favorite polymer colors gets a remake by its manufacturer and I'm no longer able to create a color that I loved using… so it's back to photographing!

I do almost all my photography outside, only coming indoors and photographing by a bright window on the very coldest days of winter. Most of my photos need very little editing, but occasionally, try as I may, even going out at the same time every day, there are lighting variations in my photos that I dislike. Some would say that I should use a light box… and I know I could, but I will argue that the fresh air is good for me and I'm just not all that interested in making one… and have no intention whatsoever of buying one either.

So… I turn to my trusty Photoshop on these days and use it's magic…

Since I use a white background for most of my photos, making adjustments is super easy! And here's a peek at how I do it…

And you're done! Pretty easy, right?

See the difference?

This little bunny was one of my most stubborn beads to photograph, ever!

And many photos don't take much editing at all, but I do like consistency. :-)

And the end result…
a shop with more nice bright white photos… and a happy me!

I don't at all claim to be a Photoshop pro, and there may be other ways for doing these things (other Photoshop techniques, new camera, light box, etc, etc…) but if I can make it work for me, then so can you! And after all, if you make pretty things, why not show them to the world in pretty photos?!

What things in your creative process do you feel you are always working on? Are you like me and you keep striving for the best it can be, feeling like there's always another level to reach? Do share!

Rebekah Payne