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Handmade with Love and Stuff


Charm Exchange Part 4: Community

Our bracelets and necklaces are nearing completion as my friends and I met for another round of the charm exchange. I really admire how each artist has chosen to address the different themes, and it’s been really interesting to see how the variety of mediums used work together in each collection.

One of the things I have enjoyed most about this experience is the sense of community. Most artists spend a lot of time working on their craft alone in their studio or workshop or craft space. Collaborations like a charm exchange allow us to meet up with other artists, share our talents and expertise, learn about new mediums and techniques, and be inspired by the work of others… in addition to chatting about life and enjoying a good meal together.

Have you started a charm exchange like ours? Do you get together regularly with friends for craft nights? Let me know how you have developed a community around your craft and I’ll share your experience next time when we wrap up this series with our final charm exchange. Stay tuned for photos of our completed jewelry pieces and more information about how to start an exchange of your own. Until then, here are the newest additions to our charm bracelets and necklaces. Continue reading



A Charm Exchange: Make Jewelry, Make Friends

Charm ExchangeLast week I promised to tell you a bit more about the charm exchange I’m involved in and how it works. A charm exchange is a great opportunity to make jewelry, hone your skills and try out new techniques, learn from your fellow artists, and make new friends. I bet you’ll want to start an exchange too!

Here’s how it works. Everyone chooses a theme for their bracelet or necklace, and over the course of the year, each artist will make two charms for each person based on their themes.

Maybe it will make more sense if I use myself as an example. I chose the theme coral reefs, so to start it off, I crocheted a starfish and attached it to my bracelet. At the first meeting, Annie worked up the exchange list (alphabetically ordered) and we all exchanged our necklaces and bracelets with each other. Now over the next two months, Rosalind will work on my bracelet, while I crochet charms for Erikia’s necklace. Erikia will work on Annie’s, Annie will work on Alexandra’s, Alexandra will work on Sylvie’s, and Sylvie will work on Rosalind’s. It’s a really good thing we have Annie to keep it all straight.

It will be so much fun to see how each piece progresses from beginning to end as we all add a bit of our handiwork. And I’m excited to be able to share our progress here with you. Are you excited to see what we’ve done so far? Here are some photos of everyone’s pieces at the start of the exchange.

Sylvie's Charm NecklaceSylvie is really into eyes and hearts, which led her to create the clever theme “Eye Adore You” for her necklace.

Annie's Charm NecklaceAnnie’s theme is birds and flowers. Can you spot all the birds and flowers she’s added so far?

Erikia's Charm NecklaceErikia’s theme is “In the Dark.” The charms Erikia created to start off her necklace include a bullet casing with an opal-colored glass crystal and a mini test tube with an iridescent green beetle inside.

Rosalind's Charm BraceletRosalind’s theme is “The Garden of Earthly Delights.” Bosch’s masterpiece will provide plenty of inspiration.

Alexandra's Charm BraceletAlexandra’s theme is Japanese Kokeshi dolls.

Jennifer's Coral Reef Charm BraceletMy theme is coral reefs, including the animals and plants that call them home.

Charm Boxes

Sylvie’s box (left) for her “Eye Adore You” charm necklace and Annie’s box (right) for her Birds & Flowers charm necklace.

 We can also make a box or bag, inspired by our theme, for our jewelry piece to travel from person to person in.

Z Jennifer's Charm BoxSylvie and Annie made such nice boxes, I decided after the first meeting to try to make a box of my own. Inspired by the Smithsonian Crochet Coral Reef exhibit, I tried my hand at making a freeform crochet reef box. It was my first ever attempt at freeform crochet. You might guess, given my affinity for patterns, that this was a challenge for me, and it was at first. Eventually I was able to let loose and go wild. I’m not sure it’s a success, but it was sure fun to try.

A charm exchange is a great way to make fun things and make friends. You should start one too!

I have Erikia’s charm necklace next, so I’m off to crochet something dark and mysterious. Until next week… keep smiling, life’s a picnic. 🙂


Itty Bitty, Teeny Weeny Crochet

A recent invitation to participate in a charm exchange has brought me the opportunity to explore the wonderful world of miniature amigurumi. An exchange like this brings artists together to collaborate in the making of each other’s charm necklace or bracelet. Our group includes artists in a variety of mediums: ceramic, mixed media, felt, beads, metal, and found objects. And I get to contribute crochet to the mix! Each of us gets to pick a theme for our jewelry piece, and I chose coral reefs. Imagine all the colorful things we could do with that! But first I have to make a charm myself to get my bracelet started. What reef creature could I make?

crochet-picnic-basket1First things first, I’ve never crocheted anything this small. I think the smallest piece I’ve done is the picnic basket that is about 2” tall. Just to practice, I tried making an urchin, thinking it was a simple shape… but it was too simple and it just looked like a ball. After trying a few more sea creatures, I decided to make a starfish. First I attempted to convert a life-sized starfish pattern to this scale by using DMC floss and the smallest size hook I could find. But no matter what I tried I couldn’t get it small enough. It made me realize that miniature crochet has its own tricks and rules! I do have a lot to learn.

I needed extra-small materials and extra-small patterns. I went to my local craft store with all my crochet hooks in hand to try to complete my set of steel hooks. I love how inexpensive steel hooks are! For under $20 I was able to get all the hooks I needed, from size 00 to size 14. I was also able to find crochet thread and 100% Pearl Cotton Thread in Size 5. My friend Annie let me borrow her Size 8 thread to try. Now I feel sufficiently equipped for this challenge.

Itty Bitty Crocheted Critters by Erin ClarkMini Amigurumi  by Sara ScalesI also found some books about miniature crochet that are bound to help. Mini Amigurumi by Sara Scales includes patterns for a wide variety of cute little gems from birds to babies to fruits and vegetables. Some are as small as 1/2”! Itty Bitty Crocheted Critters by Erin Clark includes patterns for some really interesting creatures like a flamingo, gecko, and crocodile. I’ve seen works from fellow crocheters done from these patterns and I can’t wait to try them out too.

We’ll be making charms for this exchange and meeting every other month over the next year. It will be exciting to see if I can improve my skills over this time. And I can’t wait to see what everyone else makes too!

I’ll share with you more in the coming week about how the charm exchange works. Until then, here’s the crochet pattern for the starfish I made for my own bracelet. I’m wondering if any of you have tried miniature amigurumi. What’s the smallest thing you’ve ever crocheted?

Starfish Charm

Starfish Charm Crochet Pattern

(Inspired by the work of Julia Kolbaskina)

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