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Posts Tagged ‘cowrie shell’

I’m trying to get stuck into processing some of the broken jewellery job lots which seem to have built up over the last few years. Partly so I can use the box I’ve been storing them in for my workshop folders but mostly so I can see what I actually have and start creating.

Processing is basically cleaning and sorting. As most jewellery is worn next to the skin, it can be…well, greasy. Sorry if you happen to be eating at this point. So a good scrub in warm soapy water with a firm bristled toothbrush is a must. I also put some of the all metal pieces into my barreller, again with warm soapy water and let it work its magic.

Then I sort out what I have. Some pieces are wearable, so I decide if they are worth listing on eBay or Etsy, taking to a car boot sale or popping into the charity bag. This leaves me with the proper broken bits. Occasionally it literally is rubbish, so if I can’t recycle it (usually only a tiny amount) then it goes in the bin. Some pieces need further breaking down, like stripping the beads off necklace fragments or separating useful components from an earring drop and then I’m left with the keepers which I sort into various boxes, depending on what they are, to use later, when inspiration strikes!

Often, inspiration strikes as I’m cleaning and this is what happened with the tiger cowrie shell butterfly barrette which some of you might have seen on Instagram recently. The lot I was sorting contained some ovals and circles cut from tiger cowrie shells. Two of the ovals had just one hole drilled in them so I made them into a pair of drop earrings, but the ovals with four holes looked like they would be a bit more of a challenge to turn into earrings. But added to two of the smaller circles…

The large black and cream bead was also in the same lot and was exactly the right proportion to become the body. A selection of orange beads from the orange bead department (which is why I sort my jewellery bits carefully) and some gold tone wire added the finishing touches and I stitched it down onto two layers of good quality green heathered felt.

Next, the cowrie shell pieces, which I stitched down in a geometric pattern with my favourite metallic Madeira thread.

Cutting the felt away around the edge once I’d done the stitching was a bit nerve-wracking, especially around the tail, where I needed something to be present underneath the beaded body, but not enough to be obvious.

The cowrie pieces had been cut from the top of the dome of the shell, so even though there were two layers of felt behind, there was still a bit of a void under the top wings. I filled this with some padding made from felt scraps before covering it with a butterfly-shaped piece of pelmet vilene for extra firmness and another piece of the green felt.

I connected my felt and vilene sandwich with beaded blanket stitch with dark copper colour seed beads to match the markings on the shell pieces and orange mercerised cotton to echo the touches of orange on the body. The beads also help to keep the blanket stitch even!

A first – a video on my blog! I hope this shows how lovely and sturdy it turned out with all the layers of felt and the beads have given the edging a nice solid feel too.

At this point I was still unsure whether to finish it as a brooch or a hair barrette and my poll on Instagram turned out exactly 50:50, which was no help. So I decided to go with what I think will be more saleable – a barrette – and stitched a new barrette clip onto the back.

You will notice, if you look at the ‘tail’ section that I’ve not beaded it. When I was joining everything I felt that the beads would be too big for the tight corners and I was struggling with very narrow pieces of felt which I didn’t want to shred, so I left it as plain blanket stitch. But the more I looked at it, the more I hated it. it was untidy, uneven and spoiled a result which I’m extremely proud of. So at the weekend I carefully undid the blanket stitch, fastened off the ends of the thread so I didn’t lose the rest of the beads and beaded the tail. It was a lot easier – mostly I think because the rest of the stitching was already done so the felt and vilene pieces were firmly held in place.

It’s the little details. And I’m finally happy for it to flutter off into my Etsy shop here

…along with my harlequin clasp.

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