Happy Feet with Frocks2Socks!

Frocks2Socks

Now here’s a super little UK web-based shop specialising in keeping your legs and feet happy, warm and colourful!

Frocks2Socks is a small family run shop with a very clear idea of what is most important for the success of their business – customer satisfaction.  They pledge their ‘bags of enthusiasm’ to putting their customers first, with a fast reliable service and quality products.

Their website has a clear, easy to navigate layout.  On browsing the ladies’ section, I rather fell for these gorgeous pairs of ankle socks (though I must confess my addiction to collecting owls of all shapes and sizes; some to warm my feet would be an amusing addition):

Pink Owl Socks

Pink Owl Socks

Pink Bow Socks

Pretty in Pink Bow Socks

Or for a more business-like look, how about brightening up the chilly days of spring still ahead with a pair or two of these lovely satin soft opaque tights? A definite dash of elegance and warmth for your legs:

Satin Soft Opaque Tights

Satin Soft Opaque Tights

The shop also offers items for men, boys and girls, as well as an expanding selection of inexpensive gemstone jewellery.  Do take a moment to visit the Frocks2Socks website and have a browse at their growing range of products.

They say that every order brings a bright smile to their faces – I’m pretty sure that every one of their customers will feel the same; dealing with Frocks2Socks is a delight and there’s no doubt that your now brightly attired happy feet will make you smile too!

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Where Heaven and Home Meet

Silhouettes and Reflections by Per Ola Wiberg

Silhouettes and Reflections by Per Ola Wiberg

Well here we all are at the beginning of another year; does the prospect of the exciting adventure ahead in 2013 fill you with enthusiasm, or do you find the start of a new year a little daunting with so many possibilities out there and the choice of which path to take (should you decide to step off your already well worn one) something of a challenge?

I usually find the Christmas and New Year period exhausting, both for all the usual reasons, but also because I spend so much mental energy making and breaking resolutions before I’ve even reached the end of the first week of January!

And this year is no exception …

So far, though, I’ve kept my promise to myself to hunt down new and interesting websites which showcase beautiful, innovative, unusual or unique items which compliment my own creative endeavours. Whether they be beautiful home wares, original gifts or handmade creations, I thought I’d begin sharing those I particularly like here with you.

My first discovery in this fledgling month of the year is ‘Aster Online ~ for Heavenly Home and Gifts

Aster Online ~ for Heavenly Home and Gifts

Sian Boffey set up Aster in 2011 prompted by a search for that ‘perfect’ gift for a friend’s wedding – but that special something that ticked all the right boxes of being original, personal and of fine quality seemed impossible to find. Surely, if there was no one out there offering the right combination of things, then one solution must be to source and stock them herself? Thus, Aster Online was born.

The website is extremely easy to navigate and even at first blush, I found several beautiful items which I could quite happily have indulged in purchasing, either for myself and my home or as gifts for others.

Can’t you just imagine yourself snuggling up on the sofa with this enchanting embroidered cushion, sipping a glass of something special and indulging in your favourite romantic movie? Oh yes, so can I …

And at only £23, it’s not too expensive either.  Go on, treat yourself or that someone special!

Dotty Sage and Rosebud Applique Cushion

Dotty Sage and Rosebud Applique Cushion

Or how about a luxurious bath before bedtime with one of these? With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, (I know, we’ve all only just recovered from Christmas, but time waits for no man – or woman – so you can’t avoid it) these exquisite heart shaped bath melts would make a wonderful gift, but hurry as they’re currently on sale and I’m sure won’t stay in stock very long.

Oriental Tea Garden Bath Melts

Oriental Tea Garden Bath Melts

Aster also has gifts for him, for the little ones and some lovely personalised items for home and garden too, so do pay a visit and have a browse soon.

As a bonus, all of Aster’s products are sent postage and packing free to the UK mainland and a complimentary gift wrapping service is also available. Indeed, what more could you ask for? I think Sian has thought of every detail to make your experience of browsing, buying and presentation as carefree as possible.

Happy shopping and a Happy New Year to all!

The Gift ~ A Silver Stocking Filler!

Sterling Silver Woven Bangle

Sterling Silver Woven Bangle

I thought it might just be the perfect time to do a ‘giveaway’, what with Christmas just around the corner, and this beautiful woven silver bangle just desperate for a new home!

My intention is to make a collection of these bangles, each of differing widths, so that they can be bought as a set and worn stacked together on the arm.  This bangle will fit an average female wrist, being 21 cm in diameter, and the band is approximately 4 mm wide.

I started with three lengths of sterling silver wire of around 1.6mm diameter.  The three lengths were bound tightly together with iron binding wire and then the ends fluxed and soldered to hold them firmly together and in place.  Next, the bundle of wires was secured in a vice and, using a pair of mole grips to hold one end, the bundle was twisted around and around to form a uniform spiral.

Woven Bangle - Work in Progress

Woven Bangle – Work in Progress

Twisting the silver like this causes it to work harden significantly; before any further progress could be made with the piece it had to be annealed (heated) to relax it and make it malleable once more.  The next step was to flatten the spiral.  This could be done easily with a rolling mill (if I had one), but my methods are more basic but probably a lot more satisfying – the use of a hammer can be very therapeutic! Using a hammer and a steel block, I flattened out the spiral into a long piece of woven silver that I could then shape into the bangle.  As you hammer the twisted metal, the weave loosens and the pattern starts to appear.  Repeated annealing is necessary during this process to keep the silver workable.

Once the correct thickness and length is achieved the piece is cut, fluxed and soldered together to form a circle.

Woven Bangle after soldering

Woven bangle after soldering

After the finishing processes of filing, emerying and polishing, you have the finished piece all dressed up, but with nowhere to go …

Thus the ‘giveaway’: I’ll be doing this via Twitter and tweeting regularly over the next week to get as many involved as possible.

For the chance to receive this beautiful handmade solid sterling silver bangle free of charge, you will need to follow me on Twitter (@anabenedicta) and either retweet one of my #BangleGiveaway tweets or give me a mention including the #BangleGiveaway tag – simple!

The closing date for this giveaway is Sunday, 16 December 2012 at 12 noon GMT – the winner will be chosen at random from all qualifying followers using Twitrand and will be announced by 6:00pm on 16 December.

Go on, join in the fun and win a beautiful free silver stocking filler this Christmas.  Good luck!

Handmade Sterling Silver Woven Bangle

Handmade Sterling Silver Woven Bangle

Please note that only UK entrants will be guaranteed to receive the bangle before Christmas; overseas entrants are welcome but may not receive their gift until January 2013 as I am unable to guarantee international postage times.

Friendship with a Twist

Maori Single Twist Silver Pendant

Maori Single Twist Silver Pendant

I always feel especially happy when I’m asked by a friend to create a bespoke piece of jewellery.  On this occasion, it was even more special as it was to be a gift commissioned in celebration of a 40th birthday and the design had to reflect both the birth date and, more importantly, the significance and value of a long-standing friendship.

I had suggested something along the lines of a Celtic Claddagh, representing love, friendship and loyalty, but my friend had a very definite (and very different) idea in mind. She told me that the birthday girl was fond of large, bold pieces of jewellery.  After some research, she had decided upon a Maori Friendship Twist as the perfect solution.

The single twist is a Maori tribal symbol and is often given and worn as a token of love and eternal friendship.  As we also wanted to represent the November birth stone (in this case Topaz), I thought I’d add a twist of my own to the Twist (so to speak) and came up with this design:

Maori Twist Pendant sketch

Maori Twist Pendant sketch

Adding the wave effect ‘arms’ to the centre of the design presented me with the ideal location in which to set the beautiful Swiss Blue Topaz stone I had bought to compliment this piece.

So, with the design parameters all now met, it was time to set to work.

I started by converting the design sketch into a black and white image that I could apply to thick silver sheet using transfer paper.  My choice of method was influenced by the fact that I wanted to create a 3D effect where the twist overlaps to form the bail loop. Rather than tracing out the flat design and then using my piercing saw and files to achieve the desired grooves in the metal, I opted for etching the shape onto the silver, thereby allowing the acid to eat away the metal to create the effect I wanted.

Once the acid had completed its work, you can see below the initial stages where the shape has been pierced out of the metal and the initial filing completed:

Maori Friendship Twist - Work in Progress

Maori Friendship Twist – Work in Progress

The next task was to fabricate the bezel setting for the stone and then solder that into place between the ‘arms’ which would appear to hold the gemstone at the centre of the pendant.  A circular bail of half-round wire was then made and attached to the bail loop.

After the usual processes for finishing with emery paper, Tripoli and Rouge polish, the stone could be securely set within the bezel.  I am very pleased with the result and am happy to say that so was the lucky birthday girl!

Sterling Silver Maori Friendship Twist Pendant

Sterling Silver Maori Friendship Twist Pendant with Swiss Blue Topaz gemstone

A Musical Symmetry?

'Symmetry' Pendant - Artist's Impression

Sterling Silver ‘Symmetry’ Pendant

I had been puzzling for a while about how I could make a pendant to compliment my ‘Perfect Symmetry’ collection of rings.  Initially, I wanted to create something based around a circular design in recognition of the rings’ shape, but I could find no pleasing way of  incorporating the symmetrical scroll elements whilst also maintaining a true circle form.

Eventually I decided to just take a straight piece of round silver wire of significant diameter, taper the ends sufficiently to enable me to create the scrolls, and then play around with this and a pair of half round pliers until the metal took on an interesting shape.

Tapered Silver Wire in 'Symmetry' shape

Tapered Silver Wire in ‘Symmetry’ shape

Tapered silver wire and bezel with Iolite gemstone

Tapered silver wire and bezel with Iolite gemstone

After a good deal of bending, hammering and annealing, a good shape seemed to present itself.

Continuing with the twining tendrils theme, I added a further piece of scrolled wire to the top of the pendant to create a bail.  I am really pleased with this small detail which enhances the overall effect of the piece.

'Symmetry' Sterling Silver Pendant

‘Symmetry’ Sterling Silver – a work in progress

The bezel will be filled with a 6mm round deep violet Iolite stone, the companion to that used in the ‘Symmetry with Iolite’ ring.

On seeing the design sketches for this pendant, a colleague commented that it looked a little like a musical treble clef symbol; it’s not quite, but I’m now thinking how I could use that idea for a future design!

'Symmetry' Collection - Iolite Pendant and Ring

‘Symmetry’ Collection – Iolite Pendant and Ring

Wearing a Heart on your Wrist

Solid Sterling Silver Celtic Knot Heart Charm Bracelet

Solid Sterling Silver Celtic Knot Heart Charm Bracelet

I’ve a real passion for Celtic knotwork and after the success of the Celtic Cross pendant I was longing to explore more ideas.

Charm bracelets are still proving very popular, so I thought I’d have a go at creating my own version of this style.  Working with a large link trace chain in solid sterling silver for the bracelet element, I chose a knotwork heart design from which to handcraft a single silver charm.

Heart Charm - work in progress

Heart Charm – work in progress

The detail of the design was hand-pierced from solid silver sheet, then filed into shape and formed.

Silver Heart Charm attached by figure of eight link to bracelet

Silver Heart Charm attached by figure of eight link to bracelet

The charm is then attached to a custom made figure of eight link on the chain via a jump ring.  Additional charms could be added to the bracelet chain, but I am all for classic simplicity and think that the beautifully detailed Celtic knot charm needs no accompaniment.

‘Heart’s Desire’ Sterling Silver Celtic Knotwork Charm Bracelet

The Solace of Success

Sterling Silver Celtic Cross Pendant

Sterling Silver Celtic Cross Pendant

What a relief when a challenging piece of work you took on with gritted teeth turns out well; even more so when the result is so much better than you could have hoped and leads to another commission!

This beautiful Celtic Cross pendant did give me one or two sleepless nights, but my client was so thrilled and enthusiastic about the result that I have to admit that every moment was worth it.

The whole piece was hand pierced using a saw frame with blade and then each and every element of the detailed design had to be hand finished with file and emery paper; it took time and patience, but I hope you’ll agree that all that work has paid off with interest.

I now feel confident enough to tackle another similar project, and am currently playing with a few designs that I think will make a good home for a stunning facet cut blue moonstone that I have in stock.  I’ve been wondering for a while how best to use it and I think I might well have found the perfect answer.

Sterling Silver Celtic Cross design hand-cut Pendant

Sterling Silver Celtic Cross design hand-cut Pendant