Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Not So Straight-Laced

   This piece is a little bit hard and a little bit soft. It's like leather and lace… but perhaps a bit less kinky. After making my mother's necklace using resin I tried to think of some other projects I could use it with.
    I've always adored the way lace looks on bare skin, but I feared a necklace made from lace alone would be far too delicate and tear. Resin was the perfect solution to this conundrum since it would add a lot of strength and protect the fine threads. Plus, this way I could add little embellishments like seed beads and firmly attach it to a metal "frame." This post will be a proper tutorial on how to complete this project, but I'd encourage you put on your creativity had and find another material to encapsulate in the resin (read: don't copy me! then again I'd have to have actual readers to be ripped-off).

1. Pick your lace and make a frame

First I chose the part of the lace design that would be a good size and pattern to place on your upper chest. Once I found the piece I liked I cut it out, make sure to cut the lace piece big enough so that you have extra fabric to glue your frame to it. I traced through the holes in the lace on a piece of paper to make the inner outline of the metal frame I wanted.  Then I traced around that about a half inch or so.
Then, I glued the pattern onto a piece of 30 gauge sheet copper with a silver-colored finish and cut it out using french shears. Since the metal is so thin I didn't have to bother with my jeweler's saw. Once cut I use some needle files (half-round and round mostly) to remove the sharp edges. I also had to use some pliers to straigten out the frame since it got bent in the cutting process. I even attempted to cover it with some books and dumbbells, but that didn't help much.

2. Glue your lace to your frame

For this step I used some decoupage glue to attach the lace to the back of the frame. In hindsight some E-6000 would probably have worked a little better, but once the resin was poured that helped really stick the two together.  I sandwiched the frame and lace between two pieces of wax paper and heavy books, then stacked some barbells on top of those books for a couple hours.

3. Mix up and pour your resin

I used a jewelry grade epoxy resin that comes in two parts (Envirotex brand) that is easy to use, safe, and has yielded some great results. Make sure to read the instructions it comes with, but it's basically a 1:1 mix that you stir together in one cup for 2 minutes, then transfer to another cup and stir for a second 2 minutes. The 1:1 ratio must be exact (they include a measuring cup) for it to set right so don't just eyeball it. Once mixed you have 30-45 minutes before it's too far set to pour so don't dilly-dally.
Before mixing my resin I set up the frame and lace. Resin sticks to most everything so I made my piece on top of wax paper. The wax actually left a little residue stuck to the back, which I liked since it created a kind of textured look, but if you want it crystal-clear I would suggest parchment paper of a
layer of two of plastic wrap actually works best. I put the wax paper and then the frame and lace on top of a couple layers of carboard so that I could use push pins around the outside of the frame to hold it exactly level.
Next, I poured the resin. Make sure not to put too much on at one time or it could run over your edges. It's not a disaster if it does, you can wipe it up with a cue-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol while it's still liquid, but once it runs over it tends to keep going and can be a little bit like a river so it's best to avoid that in the first place. I poured just enough so that it kind of domed over and was thick enough so that none of the lace threads still showed tecture through. Use a cheap (you can't clean and reuse a brush with resin; it has to be tossed), but soft paintbrush to guide the resin around the edges of the lace and to the top edge. If it goes over that edge it's not a big deal because you can trim that with sciccors after it sets, but for a nice edge try not to go too far.
Last, I embellished the lace with meticulously placed seed beads on the leaves of the pattern. Since the lace was black, the beads, which matched the color of the metal finish, higlighted parts of the pattern that might otherwise be lost. 

4. Wait…

Resin takes 24 hours to soft-set and a full 48 hour minimum to fully set. It also needs to be in a temperature between 70-80 degrees F or it may get cloudy if it's cold. My workspace is in my basement where it's a little chilly, so once my piece wass ready to cure I put it in a box and then placed a piece of paper on the edges of the box so dust wouldn't fall on it while it was drying. Then, I set a lamp over it to provide some heat.
After 24 hours it will be set enough so you can move and touch it a little without ruining it. I checked to make sure there was no runover. There was a tiny bit on the top edge so I used an exact-o knife to cut that off and hopefully the edge would be a little softer and not sharp once it fully cured (maybe it would flow a tiny bit and soften the edge?) This was one of my first resin projects so I wasn't positive about what to expect.

5. Finishing touches

I wanted to add an antique-y kind of feel to the metal frame so I engraved some swirlies to emulate the pattern in the lace. I drew the designs with a fine-tip sharpie, which can easily be removed with some rubbing alcohol if you change your mind/mess up.
To engrave the metal I used a dremel with an engraving tip. I love my dremel for jewelry projects so much because it's affordable; you can get a kit for about $50 with all kinds of gret tips plus plenty more options you can get on their own. I also got a flex-shaft attachment with a more flexible, pencil like hand-held piece for delicate projects like this. It takes some skill and getting-used to, so practice your designs on scrap metal before hand so you don't ruin all of your hard work. You could also do this before you attach your frame to you lace so if you mess up your can cut a new frame without losing the lace and resin, but I hadn't thought of engraving the metal until after I'd gotten this far. I also used some 600 grit sandpaper to distress the metal here and there for an added antique look.
Finally, I drilled some holes on the top of the metal frame where I wanted to attach it to the chain. For even more curlycues, I formed some 16 gauge metal wire into swirls, then forged it on a little anvil with a ball-pein hammer. I threaded the back of the metal through the holes, formed some more swirls where I could attach it to the chain with some jump rings, then forged that part, as well. Then I used oval jump rings to attach the chain and a lobster clasp.
Voila, you've got a permanant lace necklace to wear with anything from a simple top and jeans or a cocktail dress. This same method can be used for all sorts of material from lace to cotton patterns or any kind of fabric embellishments.

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