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The Naughty Secretary Club: The Working Girl’s Guide to Handmade Jewelry

Reported by Donna Lannerd

Okay, the title of this book is great at catching your attention and if you do a Google search for it you will probably find some very interesting sites that have nothing to do with jewelry but the book is definitely worth taking a look at. This is the product of the original Naughty Secretary herself, Jennifer Perkins, who started her jewelry business while working (and making jewelry) as a secretary. Bad, bad secretary but great for us that she is sharing her jewelry knowledge in this very unique book that was just released in August.

There are two things about this book that has me wearing the edges of the pages off already. It has gorgeous photography and the instructions are accompanied by even more great photos. It also has a quirky writing style that makes it a blast to read. She provides a great introduction on tools, supplies and a beginner how-to section on jewelry making basics she calls “Secretary School”. There are “Take A Memo” side bars interspersed with projects that provide tidbits of trivia and helpful hints like the one on all the uses for a ripped pair of pantyhose. The projects in this book are very whimsical using found objects, office supplies and scrapbooking items to create unique pieces that are on the funky side of life and will put smiles on anyone who wears them. However, if the pieces are a little too quirky for you, you will still find this book helpful for learning how to make jewelry. I am by no means an expert but I found the projects very inspirational. For example, I love the beads on the cover of the book. They are made from shredded junk mail. As you can see by my try at this technique, I used scraps of my scrapbook paper and made them more stripey.

Some of the supplies used: 1″ wooden beads, Traditions natural gallery black beads from Hobby Lobby, 1MM On-A-String Necklace Kit

I was also intrigued by jewelry she made from rub-ons from the scrapbooking aisle. In the book she says, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” since there are so many supplies to to choose from. I used rub-ons here to make a few embellished connectors to put with a chain. I was totally impressed with myself.

Some of the supplies used: chain by Metal Madness from Horizon Group USA, Rainbow Shell Connector by Traditions natural gallery from Hobby Lobby, Starburst Flowers Rub-ons by E-Z Rub-on Transfers

The last thing I tried was using covered button kits to make jewelry pieces. I was wanting to do a bracelet like was shown in the book but I was unable to find a bracelet blank in a local store so instead I made these hair barrettes for my daughter. Let me tell you, absolutely everyone can do these. In the book she used a vintage hankie but I just used a small amount of fabric I had on hand.

Some of the upplies used: 50mm nickel hair clip from Hobby Lobby, Dritz 7/8″ cover button kit. Liquid Fusion Glue

Pros

  • Lots of photos
  • Step-by-step photo instructions
  • Fun to read even if you don’t make anything
  • Inspiring

Cons

  • Cover may get you some bizarre looks from strangers while reading
  • I did have trouble finding one item from the materials list I was using

Although the style of projects are not my style, I am so happy that I have this book to inspire me and show me the basic skills of simple jewelry making in a fun, helpful way. It is a 9 out of 10 for me.

It is published by North Light Books division of F&W Publications and price is $16.99 US ($18.75 CAN). You can find it for purchase at The Naughty Secretary Club website, Amazon and F&W Publications Bookstore.

What do you think of the Naughty Secrectary? Do you have a favorite book or place to find inspiration for jewelry making with found objects?

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Punch Needle Tool Comparison

Reported by Donna Lannerd

I have 2 punch needle tools not because I’ve started a collection but because I put one in a very safe place to make sure I would know where it was. Guess what? It was so safe even I couldn’t harm it … I mean … find it. Unfortunately I was in the middle of a project and after an agonizing week of looking I finally gave in to buying a new one. But, my needle was not one I could find in just any craft store and I was already so far behind that I didn’t want to wait for one to come in the mail. Luckily, punch needle or for some, needle punch, had gained some mainstream popularity and I picked up the Punch Needle Tool and Threader by Dimensions at my local Hobby Lobby.

Now, the only problem was that I was very skeptical of this small, bare-bones tool. For one thing it only cost about $3 and I probably used a coupon so it didn’t even cost me that much. My professional looking (at least compared to the Dimensions gadget) Ultra Punch cost about $16 that I purchased from a vendor at a quilt show. I started to really miss my Ultra Punch by Cameo and I hadn’t even taken the new one out of the package but I really needed to finish that project so I reluctantly opened the package.

First off, the Dimensions tool is much smaller. It is 4 1/2 inches long compared to the Ultra Punch that is 6 inches long on the shortest setting. That’s another thing, this little one doesn’t have extra settings (although I hadn’t even used different settings yet). It is a one-size-is-it punch length. For those of you that are not familiar with punch needle, the whole concept is about making loops on the right side of your fabric with the needle and different settings gives you different lengths of loops.

Just like my larger one, the small one came with needle threaders which you absolutely need with this tool. I threaded the needle and went to work. Voila! It worked. Other than getting used to the smaller size it worked just fine. I finished my project and then I found my other needle which was stored near by with some new floss for another project. Well, at least I have a back up tool now.

Now that I have that extra needle, I am not going to get rid of my larger one. I mean I did pay way more for it than the smaller one but it definitely has its upsides like being able to adjust the loops. The flower pictured below is an example of what those different adjustments can do. I did the center of the flower using the shortest setting and did the petals with the longest. There are actually 12 settings which means you can add a sculptural look to a project.


This next photo is a card using a punch needle motif and I used both of the needles to see if there was any difference. The Dimensions tool’s needle is actually minutely longer than the Ultra Punch on its lowest setting so the center heart is just ever so slightly higher than the outer heart. This effect was minimized when I pressed it.

Pros

  • Ultra Punch has several length settings
  • Ultra Punch needle stores with the needle covered
  • Ultra Punch has 3 needle sizes that are interchangeable on one tool
  • Dimension tool is inexpensive
  • Dimension tool is easy to find at nationwide stores
  • Both tools have a comfortable hold position

Cons

  • Ultra Punch tool is more costly
  • Dimension tool only has one setting
  • Dimension tool is altogether short, making it (at least to me) a little harder to hold

Suggested price of the Dimensions Punch Needle Tool and Threader is $3.00 and is easily available at Hobby Lobby, Michaels and Joann’s. It can also be found online at Dimensions, Joann’s, and Ericas. The Ultra Punch by Cameo can be found online at Joann’s, Nordic Needle and Country Threads and prices vary from $15 – 17.99 for the small and medium (I have the small). Some places only offer it in a 3 size needle set which is usually around $27.99.

I rate the Dimension’s tool at an 8 while giving the Cameo a 9 because I can make the different lengths. I also would recommend the Dimension one to any beginner because punch needle can take some practice before getting the feel of how to do it.

Have you tried either or both of these tools, or perhaps you have another tool we don’t know about?

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Creativity for Kids Kits from Faber-Castell

Reported by Donna Lannerd

Summer is just about over and school will begin soon (too soon for my daughter, not soon enough for her parents) but until the end comes there will be days where according to most kids “there isn’t anything to do.” I’ve found an inexpensive, all-inclusive kit that parents and caretakers can have on hand to put a stop to the end of vacation boredom. These Creativity for Kids Kits from Faber-Castell are small in size but come in several different kinds – I counted 23 on their website – and there are some for boys as well as girls.

These particular kits are small on investment but big on return. A few of the kits only have one item but many of them have supplies to make several such as the 2 shown in the photo: 10 Opti-Art Rings and 12 Clip-on Cuties. With being able to make multiple projects you can use it for a group or kids can make gifts for their friends. Price for each kit is only $5.99. There are larger kits that cost more but I really like these smaller ones.

I didn’t have much trouble with getting my daughter to make the Opti-Art Rings. In fact, she wouldn’t stop asking about when we were finally going to make them. Her favorite part about this kit was painting on the designs. I made the palm tree ring below by using a mini-punch, gluing the tree on paper, using the stone to draw around the design and cutting it out before gluing the design on. Directions for this is in the kit though it suggest using a photo. This persuaded my daughter to do the same with a seahorse punch. The ring on the pinky finger is simply a piece of ribbon that we used the stone as a template and glued it on. You may also notice the faux mood ring we made together by swirling paint. When your stones have dried it is then glued to the metal ring. That’s it!


The second kit, Clip-on Cuties, ended up being harder to convince my daughter to make. I don’t think the front of the box does them justice because once I
made one she was much more enthused. My favorite thing about this particular kit is that they use “pipe cleaners” not chenille stems. How many kits/pattern books have I seen that avoids the term pipe cleaners like the plague? This kit’s directions were actually harder to follow because it has you bend the pipe cleaner into a certain form and then trim the excess off which becomes the arms. The photo below shows the point at which seemed not to make that much sense to me or my daughter.


But after getting past this point the Cutie is much easier to assemble. Now, the suggested age for this kit is 6 to 96 (yes the kits actually say 96) but my 7 year old had trouble understanding the above formation and then as she added beads she just wanted to keep adding them without leaving room to bend the pipe cleaner so the beads wouldn’t fall off. But the 7 year old was much more creative than me and didn’t want to put the beads on exactly like the photos. She used some of the large beads for the legs as well as wanting more pipe cleaner to show. I think hers (the purple one) looks much livelier. Anyway, we finished them both and are sharing them here with you.


Pros

  • Inexpensive $5.99
  • ALL supplies are in each box.
  • Supplies are easy to put back in the box. Inside tray holds supplies for easy in and out. Boxes stack nice for easy storing.
  • Quick projects.
    Company has an excellent web site where you can find the instructions for the projects in case you lose yours.
  • A plus: the kits I had each came with a duck. (I don’t know why.) See photo at the end of the article.

Cons

  • Paintbrush in the rings was not adequate. I had to get out some of my brushes that had a finer tip to get the detail needed.
  • Not in all major craft stores.
  • None for the 3-4 age although they do have larger kits for this age range but the cost is significantly more.

I found the kits at Joann’s which have them online as well. Amazon has a few in this kit type but carries others by this company. You can also purchase them directly from the Creativity for Kids website which I recommend doing a product search and use the price range criteria for finding this kit type.

I would give these small kits a 9 out of 10 rating for value and for fun especially since with the surprise of the little ducks. Let us know about your favorite kids’ kits or any feedback if you purchased these particular kits before.

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Jacquard Dye-Na-Flow

Reported by Donna Lannerd

Dye-na-flowDye-Na-Flow by Jacquard is a unique fabric paint that acts more like a dye than a paint just like its name implies. This critique was a challenge for me because I’ve never used this paint before. I’ve used other paints but they were paints that act like, well, paint. Dye-Na-Flow also is named appropriately because it is very thin and flows out of the bottle. I have tried to use this in several ways.

First, I decided I would try to see how it would stamp on fabric. In this first photo I used a sponge shape to stamp an image on a piece of wool-like felt and a piece of 100% cotton. It did fine on the felt but bled out on the cotton. The sponge absorbs too much paint and then releases it into the cotton.

This next test was using the same fabrics, but I used a foam stamp instead and painted a light coat of paint onto the stamp. The result was much better on the cotton as well as giving me a good image on the felt.


Here is what I did with the felt image of the stamp. I embroidered around the image and added a few details with beads and more embroidery.


Next, I tried using the paint on lace. The top lace in the photo below was made by simply dripping the paint directly onto the lace and letting it bleed together. The second lace was painted with 2 shades that were mixed and applied with a foam brush and allowed to blend.


My next experiment, shown in the photo below, was using the paints as a dye. To do this I first wet down the 100% cotton with water and dripped the paint onto the fabric. I used a sprayer to apply water which helped to blend the 2 different colors. I also used a brush to spread out the colors.


This tote bag employs the same method as the previous fabric experiment but on a larger and scarier scale. In fact, when I first applied the paint, I really, really didn’t like it. Although, after allowing it to drip-dry in my shower I was much happier. Then all I did was add the trim around the top for a funky, one-of-a-kind, easy to make tote.


My last act with the paint was painting silk which is another first for me. The hardest part was controlling the resist. It flowed out easy but it spread out to be a thicker line Applying the paint was easy to do although I just chose to make some simple shapes on a white silk scarf using the water based resist from Jacquard. This will take more practice time to get the results I would like.


Overall, this was a lot of fun to try even though it was much different from what I’ve done before and a little on the messy side.

Pros

  • The exciter pack is an excellent way to try this product
  • Easy to use to dye small items such as lace
  • Fun to use once you get used to how it works
  • Easy to set the paint with a hot iron or place in a hot dryer (I tested the heat set fabric by washing afterwards and did not have any dye come off.)
  • Dries soft to the touch – not stiff
  • Can be used on paper

Cons

  • Not like other fabric paints that are thicker and easy to brush on
  • Bleeds easily on woven fabrics (could be a pro depending on what you want)
  • I could only find in the Exciter packs at Michaels and Joann’s but neither had the resist for silk painting and I spent a lot of time trying to find it

The Exciter Packs come in a variety of color families and can be found in a number of craft stores as well as on Amazon of course.

Have you used this product or other Jacquard paints? What do you like to paint on your fabric?

Universal Slimline Storage Box by Sulky

Reported by Donna Lannerd

Sulky is a company known for beautiful threads and the stabilizers that help to create beautiful sewing and machine embroidery projects. So who would know better on how to keep their threads protected? They have done a fine job with the Universal Slimline Storage BoxTM which stores up to 64 large spools of thread from most major brands. This is their second thread storage box. The original, Slimline Storage BoxTM, stores 104 of the small snap-end spools that Sulky is most famous for.

I have not owned this storage system long, but already need a few more boxes. I knew I had a lot of thread, but I wasn’t aware that I would need multiple boxes. Also, I always feel I need to be more organized. I have many different sized boxes and containers I keep my stuff in, but few ‘feel’ organized. For example, the photos below show you how my thread was stored before I found
Sulky’s solution. The container is an old DMC floss cabinet that I acquired from a store that didn’t need them anymore. It is really nice with the divided drawers but as you can see the thread is thrown in and doesn’t quite fit like I wish it would and sometimes it’s hard to see the exact colors especially from the front.


Now, in the next photo is how the thread looks with each spool in its own little space and no digging around. I also love how I can really see the different shades of the colors I have, similar to how I would look at it in a store. You may also notice I actually got more than 64 spools in by placing 2 small, short spools into one spot.


The secret to this clever storage gadget is that each spool of thread fits into its spot by placing it onto a spindle. In this next photo I am demonstrating how you push on the adjacent tab to push the spindle out, allowing you to remove and return the spool. Once you release pressure on the tab, the spindle goes back into place and locks the thread in so it won’t fall out. Yes, you can knock this over and NOT spill out its contents!

Pros

  • See through – very helpful if you have more than one and need a certain color thread
  • Easy to see what colors you have compared to similar products where you only see the label end of the spool
  • Portable – nice carrying handles
  • Holds most standard brands of thread spools
  • Slim – only 3 inches deep – makes it easy to store a few on a shelf
  • Cannot spill out the contents once thread is in proper place
  • Keeps dust bunnies out

Cons

  • A little pricey at suggested retail of $32.95 US
  • Don’t buy if all you have are the smaller snap-end spools. The original Slimline is less expensive and can store many more spools
  • I have to buy more to store all my thread

The Universal Slimline Storage BoxTM has a suggested retail of $32.95 US and can be found at Joann’s and Erica’s Craft and Sewing Center where you can also find the boxes sold with thread already included for an additional fee.

I honestly cannot think of changing storage systems for my thread ever again. What do you think? Do you have a favorite way of storing thread?

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The Mini Iron by Clover

Reported by Donna Lannerd

I have owned a Mini-Iron from Clover ever since they came out years ago. It really hasn’t changed much in how it looks, but now it has a power switch and you can adjust the temperature. It is one of my favorite little tools. You can also find Mini-Iron II that has a removable iron and other accessories you can purchase such as a hot-knife to replace the iron with. There is also a cooling tote bag that makes it easy to take it it with you even when it’s still hot.

If you are not a sewer you may not think you need an iron, especially a big one that may only remind you of the wrinkly clothes you have sitting in the laundry room. If you are a sewer, especially a crafty one you may use your big iron to do such things as press seams or put appliques on with a fusible web of some sort. This is tool is perfect for small spaces and doing small jobs. For this critique I used the products below to show a couple of different ways to use the iron: an iron-on transfer and fusible-backed bias tape.


First, I will show you what it can do for the non-sewer. I made the card below using an iron-on transfer intended for a clothing project. I simply held the transfer steady on a piece of cardstock instead of fabric and then pressed down in a circular motion with the medium-hot iron. After it cooled, I peeled off the backing and trimmed around the design. Then I used it as any other design element. It’s a great way to get some different varieties using a source you may not have thought of. I used this method on the altered Ikea magazine file I did last year with flocked iron-on transfers.


The iron is very handy next to the sewing machine. Instead of getting out the big, heavy iron, use it to press seams when you are sewing small items or quilt pieces. For those of you who paper-piece it is excellent for getting those seams in place without distorting the fabric. Below is a small quilt block that I started using the ready-made fusible bias tape. I cut a 4 1/4″ piece of batik fabric and then free-formed the design by ironing the fusible strips in place. This technique is used to make stained glass quilts. I originally intended to make a coaster for my desk at work but after completing it I think I might make a few more to put together for a little artsy wall-hanging.

Pros

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Adjustable heat – it gets really hot on high
  • Great for small projects
  • Comes with a stand to keep it off your work surface

Cons

  • If you want interchangeable tips you will need to buy the Mini Iron II
  • Only good for small projects
  • Have to have an outlet. Maybe someday they will have a cordless.

The Mini-Iron sells for $24.95 and can be found at Michaels and Joann’s. You can also purchase it direct from Clover.

I hope I’ve shown you a couple of new ways to use this product. Let us know if you have this one and how you use it. Or, do you have a similar product?

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Bead & Button, Ribbon & Felt Jewelry

Reported by Donna Lannerd

I first mentioned this book, Bead & Button, Ribbon & Felt Jewelry, here at Craft Critique back during the holidays. It was on my Christmas lists of gotta haves that I already owned and thought it would make a great gift as well as be a guide to making great gifts. I still think so and it’s one of my favorite books full of great ideas with really simple supplies. It is published by CICO Books and authored by Deborah Schneebeli-Morrell.

The photography is superb. It is crisp and clear and the pieces are shown to you close-up. The only down side to this is that nothing is shown worn. Although we get great shots of the items we don’t know how a necklace made from ribbon is actually going to hang on a person. One other little thing that I didn’t like was I wish they had included instructions for the crochet circles they used for some of the pieces.

The instructions are kept simple using well drawn color diagram so you can make the items shown. On the other hand, I like the book more for its inspiration while incorporating some of its techniques. For example, the earrings below were made based on a necklace. I used shank-style buttons instead of regular buttons. I’ve sewn them each to a yo-yo or as the book calls it a “patchwork circle.”


Another project I made is based on the several necklaces and bracelets made with beads and buttons together. I put together the bracelet shown below with 3/8″ organza ribbon, red glass beads and 3/8″ shirt buttons. This took much less time than the earrings and I already had the supplies on hand except for the callottes, which holds the ribbon ends together to attach the clasp. Instead, I sewed the clasps to the ribbon ends by hand. This is a very elegant bracelet that only took me 20 minutes to make.


Overall, this is a book perfectly suited for the crafter who has that eclectic stash of buttons, beads, ribbon and fabrics. By just using these items and adding some jewelry findings, if needed, you can have a beautiful piece of jewelry in no time.

Pros:

  • Beautiful photos
  • Easy-to-follow instructions with clear diagrams
  • Supplier list included with websites listed

Cons:

  • Projects not shown on people or even mannequins
  • No instructions for the crochet circles and flowers used
  • I didn’t have time to make all the pieces

The book can be found at Hobby Lobby, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Stitchncraft beads (for those in the UK) for $19.95 U.S./25.95 CAN .

If you have this book, what are your favorite projects? If you own a similar book you love, please share it with us and tell us why you love it so much.

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