gingham bracelet finalI diligently search the fashion magazines for trends in fashion that could relate to clay . Seriously, don't we try to relate EVERYTHING to clay? "look at the wall texture-good for clay" or "I could cane this pattern"..  It seems that one of the biggest trends for Spring/Summer will be gingham!  As well as pale blues for nails.  So I decided to combine those two trends, creating a pretty light blue gingham cane with Souffle Sea Glass and Igloo (while modeling my pale blue nailpolish).  Now I know that this cane can be made using extruded pieces of clay, but I wanted to do it the "old-fashioned" way of using layer slices.  And I wanted to make just enough to make the bracelet and earrings and not have 500 more slices left.

I began the challenge at our monthly guild Clay Day by taking only 2 packages each of Soufflé Sea Glass and Igloo, my blade, my pasta machine and that cutout photo of the gingham material from one of my magazines.  I mixed some of the two colors about 1:1 to create the lighter color and then built my stacks.  I built them using pieces about 1 inch wide by 3 inches long and stacked enough layers so that the end I would cut from would be square. (This is important if you are caning checkerboards or gingham.  You have to start with a square to create squares!)  I made a Seaglass/1:1 stack and a Igloo/1:1 stack using the widest setting on my Sculpey Clay Conditioning machine.  Notice that the top and bottom layers are different!  This is vital in making a checkerboard so I figured it wouldn't hurt here either.  It also helps if you want to combine the pieces of cane to create a larger cane.

I stopped here to let the stacks rest a little and to create the Beads of Courage that was the theme of our clay day.

The next morning, I couldn't get my walk done fast enough to hit the clay table! I literally choked down my peanut butter toast while walking to out to my studio! First thing I did - break out a new blade (I lost mine at Clay Day anyway).   I cut slices off of each stack.  Note the orientation of the stack.  Cut the slices so the that top end looks like little squares.  I tend to set the stacks at an angle from me when I slice so that I can see the slice thickness as I cut all the way through to help me create even(ish) slices.

If this were a checkerboard, I would just invert every other slice, but this was tricky to get started.  (NOTE: If you stack wrong, you will have the light blue squares all line up on one end).  And I turned the stack to make sure that the opposite end of the slices were lining up correctly every time I added a slice.  See my on-trend nailpolish? Yes, it was trashed by the end of the day from paints and whatnot - it's all good - that's why I paint my own nails! I had a regularly scheduled Monday morning meeting with my boss before I retired and she used to look at my hands and if they were still thrashed with paints, inks, etc, she would say, "Oh you had a GOOD weekend!"  Great boss...

Add only enough slices to create a square at the end here, making sure that the top and bottom slices are different. For me, it was 4 slices of each color.

Here is a better visual for you of one of the completed stacks - 4 layers of each color, creating a square cane. TOP AND BOTTOM LAYERS ARE DIFFERENT!

Once the pieces are stacked and I've confirmed that all the slices are properly lined up (so easy to adjust with Soufflé!), then I begin squeezing  gently in the middle of the cane, then rotating it 90 degrees and squeezing again.  Squeeze like this along the length of the cane as the original stack gets longer and smaller.

step 4When I have reduced the cane by squeezing to about twice the original length, I set it on the work surface and use an acrylic roller to lightly roll across each side to even it all up.

Then I cut it right in the middle to admire my work!  You can see why I begin and end my stacks with a different color. These two pieces could be combined together to make a larger cane because I have one darker blue side and one lighter blue side.

If you are new to caning, pull your blade apart with your hands to tighten it, and cut like you are cutting through the table - quickly, decisively.

This cane has a dimension that will just fit the round cutter from the Sculpey Mini Cutter Basic Shapes kit (this cutter "finishes" the set of Sculpey Round Cutters as well.)  I set the cane aside and create the next cane.  Since my stack is 3 inches by 1 inch, I can make 3 canes in this manner - sizing them all differently if I wish.  I made the second cane a little larger, so that I could use the oval cutter from the same mini-cutter set (It just happened to be sitting on my clay table next to the round set).  I gently press the slices onto a smooth ceramic tile to cut them out so that the clay will hopefully stick to the tile and not in the cutter.  If it sticks, I use the medium ball tool (Sculpey Style and Detail Tools) to gently press it out.  A clean pencil eraser (on the pencil) will work also.  So I cut out as many slices as I could from each cane and used the cutters to create my shapes.  My slices were just a little wider than what the widest layer on my pasta machine would yield.

step 8

Those needles in the Sculpey bead rack set are GREAT for drilling beads.  They are VERY sharp and just the right thickness for 1mm beading elastic!  I twist the needle halfway through the bead and turn it around and drill from the other side until the holes meet.  DON'T THINK ABOUT IT and your brain will make the holes meet.  Sing, talk, watch TV - anything to distract yourself from overthinking it!

Once all the beads were drilled, I put them on an index card and baked them in my preheated oven (270F degrees, measured on TWO oven thermometers) for 30 minutes.

I took the third stack and placed it on my worksurface and gently rolled it to create a round version of the gingham to create the top of a pair of earrings.  I had two slices left of the larger cane, so I paired it for one set of the earrings.

gingham bracelet final 2

Once the beads were COMPLETELY cooled, I threaded them onto the elastic with small white "E" beads in between.  I tied a double knot and trimmed the elastic.  Gingham looks so good against tanned skin.  Looks pretty good with my (thrashed) FitBit too, doesn't it?  Why COMPLETELY cooled?  Because if there is any heat in those beads when you string them on the elastic, the elastic will shrink! Yes, I found that out the hard way about 11:30 pm one night....

ginham earrings finalSo, here are the little earrings.  Knowing me, I will wear one of each set at the same time - I love mis-matched earrings.  And don't forget one LARGE statement earring instead of a necklace is still a fashion trend too!

This was great fun and I'm amazed at how quickly the Souffle clay "cools" or "refirms" after manipulating it.  I used to let my canes set for at least an hour before cutting, but it seemed like 10 minutes (with a new blade) was all I needed!  That suede-like surface of the Souffle also kind of mimics the surface of real gingham material.  I want to make a set with Cherry Pie to match my vintage red gingham shirt I have!  What color are you going to make?  Wouldn't this be a fun swap?  Gingham in all different colors..

Supply List:

1 package each Sculpey Souffle Sea Glass and Igloo, Super Slicer, Clay Conditioning Machine, Circle Cutter and Oval Cutter from Sculpey Basic Mini Cutters, Sculpey bead rack needle,  Sculpey Acrylic Roller, 1 mm beading elastic, white "E" size beads, silver t pins and earring wires, small smooth ceramic tile, medium ball tool from the Style and Detail Tool set (optional)