Archive for March, 2011


Project 13: Pysanky process

March 31, 2011

pysanky collage

The pysanky process isn’t too complicated. You scoop up a bit of wax into the kistka, melt it over the candle, and use the tool to draw wax lines on your egg. The wax preserves the color beneath it. You then dip it into the dye, draw more wax lines, and dip it again into another color. Above you can see my plain white egg with the first wax lines (top left), then the yellow egg with my original wax lines protecting the shiny white (top right). You can also see what the egg looks like as I drew more lines and dipped the egg into more dyes (bottom left and right).

Drawing straight lines was complicated. Getting the tool to draw consistently and not make huge drips all over was also a challenge. This is the sort of craft that gets better with a clearer understanding of design and more practice. Still, I enjoyed my first attempts. It was a fun process to learn and I hope I get to try again sometime.

The final step, after all of the designing, drawing, and dyeing is done, is to melt and wipe off all of the wax (hopefully without burning your fingers). Some people then varnish their eggs, but we didn’t.

Finishing pysanky

In this photo you can see Laurie melting and wiping the wax from her completed egg with another egg in the background.

Check back tomorrow for photos of completed eggs and lessons learned.


Project 13: Designing pysanky

March 30, 2011

Egg symbols

I will be the first to admit that I have no idea what I’m doing when confronted with a blank egg. Pysanky designs can be so intricate that it seems impossible to start. Fortunately they are made of symbols that traditionally have meaning. Above you can see the guide that I had in front of me (and subsequently ignored) while designing my egg. You can also learn more about pysanky symbols on the internet:

Pysanky symbols at the Ukranian Cultural Institute
Pysanky symbolism PDF at Princeton Online
Symbols from Barbara Novak


Project 13: Pysanky supplies

March 29, 2011

Pysanky dye

I’m fortunate to know someone who learned pysanky from her family at a young age and was kind enough to invite me to her house to learn. She had all of the supplies we needed. Above you can see her collection of dyes. These are heartier dyes than you’ll find in your average egg dying kit. Eggs colored with these can no longer be eaten as the dye is quite toxic.


Of course you also need eggs. The eggs above are soaking in a water and baking soda solution. My friend wasn’t sure why the eggs needed to be soaked first, but this is what she was taught so we did it. These are whole eggs that haven’t been hard boiled or blown out. One could blow out the egg after decorating (before decorating may make it too fragile), but we didn’t.

Pysanky tools

The remaining tools are a kistka, a candle, and beeswax. The kistka is a small tool that you use to apply melted wax to the egg. It works like a tiny funnel on a stick.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about designing your pysanky egg. Then I’ll show you the process and our finished products.


Project 13: Pysanky

March 28, 2011


This week I am going to learn to make the very colorful and intricately decorated Easter eggs known as Pysanky. Soon you will marvel at my total lack of artistic ability!

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.


Project 12: Completed pen and Lessons Learned

March 25, 2011

Finished pen

Check out my awesome pen! Sorry about the weird focus. What this photo doesn’t adequately convey is the heft of this pen. It’s heavy! I had assumed that would be because of the wood, but you cut away so much wood on the lathe that it becomes more like a veneer on the outside of the brass tube. The pen itself is just weighty (unlike the words that have come from it so far).

Lessons learned:
– Don’t forget your camera. Sheesh.
– The instructor showed me where my wood turning technique was lacking and taught me a new way. I’m eager to get back to the wood shop and try it out.
– Some people really love pens. I kind of get it now.
– All I write down in an average week are grocery lists and directions. Maybe it’s time to change that?

Next week: a fun project at a friend’s house for Easter.


Project 12: Class photo

March 24, 2011

It looks like someone at TechShop took a few pictures during the pen turning class. Here is proof that I was there:

Pen class

(I’m the girl.)


Project 12: Making Pens

March 24, 2011

Rather than steal all of the photos that this guy posted I’m going to direct you to his excellent step-by-step pen making post. His process was a lot like mine except I used a different pen kit that only required one wood blank and I finished mine with different materials.

Check it out here: PenWerks

I’ll show you my completed pen tomorrow.


Project 12: Pen making supplies

March 22, 2011

I have a confession to make: I forgot to take pictures in my pen turning class. I’m going to do my best to show you the steps using photos available online, but the final pen photo will be my own.


Pen making requires a lot more supplies than I had anticipated. In addition to the pen kit itself you also need the wood blank, a drill bit, bushings, a mandrel, glue, different grits of sandpaper, and various finishing waxes. The class I took provided all of these for me.

What are all those things, you ask? I didn’t know either. The mandrel is an attachment for the lathe that holds the wood as it is turned. The first step in turning a pen is to drill a hole to insert a brass tube into. This hole is why you need a mandrel. See one here.

Bushings are small metal pieces that slide onto the madrel on either side of your wood blank. They are uniquely sized to match the particular type of pen you’re making. Here is a set. The smaller end fits inside the brass tube and the larger end indicates how small to make your wood blank as you turn it on the lathe. The bushings help you match your wood to the rest of the pen.

I chose a purpleheart for my wood (see photo above). It’s one of those exotic hardwoods I avoided during my last project but I had no allergy problems so it’s probably safe to use again.

The mandrel and a couple of the finishing waxes are available for use at TechShop.

Tomorrow: making a pen.

Photo by Cormark International


Project 12: Wood turned pen

March 21, 2011

Woodcraft pen

On Saturday I said that I would be back on the couch for some handwork this week, but I changed my mind. This week I’m going to show you the awesome pen that I made at a pen turning class a few days ago. I was amazed at how easy it was once someone showed us the right tools for the job. I see some handmade Christmas presents in my future.

Photo by Woodcraft


Project 11: Completed basket and Lessons Learned

March 19, 2011

Finished basket

I finished my basket! It’s a day later than I had hoped, but today is when I had the chunk of free time and the sunny patio to work on. At any rate, it’s done. I’m 75% happy with it. All I can see are the little details that I wish I’d done better, but even when it wasn’t completely finished it still held fruit so I think I’m calling it a success.

Lessons learned:
– It is probably impossible to make a perfect basket the first time.
– Some crafts are so new to me that I don’t even know what success or failure looks like, or even what questions to ask.
– I’m realizing that the premise of this blog may be a little silly. There is no way to get any kind of proficiency at a technique by only devoting one week to it. Then I remember that without this blog I wouldn’t have tried and I feel better.
– Procrastination is still an issue.

Next week it’s back to the couch with some small handwork in the hopes that I can get done on time. See you there!

By the way, my crochet scarf was featured on the blog One Pretty Thing this morning. Welcome new visitors! I’m going to spend some time making past projects more easily findable.