Well, I'm surely overdue for a blog post as well as way behind in reading blogs. My brother got married in Puerto Rico on Valentine's Day, so my beau and I spent several days with family on that sunny island of the very tasty food. Had I not had an unexpected allergy attack (note to self: you're allergic to blooming things, not just things that bloom where you live; take your Allegra when you travel), which gave me a seriously runny nose, it would have been a nearly perfect vacation for the middle of a long, cold winter. I mean, it's not every day here in Pennsylvania that I see something like this literally in my backyard:
Getting ready to leave the States for nearly a week was a bit stressful though because I'm now self-employed, meaning that there's no one here to pick up the slack when I'm away. Moreover, two days before I left, I found out my back surgery had been scheduled for February 22, a week after I returned from Puerto Rico, which added even more pressure to getting things done ASAP, plus I had to run have a blood test. (The surgery is now only 5 days away, and I just had a call from the hospital that involved a nurse reading off a long list of ailments and asking if I'd ever had any of them. After a few minutes of my saying "No" to everything, I said, "Aside from the herniated disk, I'm completely healthy. There's nothing else wrong with me." I guess they're required to just follow the script though, as she went on to ask me whether I was on dialysis, had a pacemaker, or had AIDS, among other things. Oh well, I tried to make her job easier.)
A week before we left, as I was in the midst of trying to get my ducks on a row so I'd be ready to fly out on Thursday the 11th, my beau's brother called and announced that he and his girlfriend were going to come stay with us the Thursday to Sunday before we left, even though my beau was working all day Friday to Sunday (he's a nurse who works 12-hour shifts). Talk about an inconvenient time for someone else to take their vacation at our not-at-all-vacation-worthy house. The day they left, I actually started a rather unkind blog post about their visit -- in truth it was a rant -- but I deleted it because, though it was true that they were rather inconsiderate, possibly even rude guests, detailing their transgressions here would have been equally inconsiderate. I think it helped me recover just to type out the story even though I ultimately scrapped it. So they came and made a mess, and I had to deal with unexpected guests when I thought I could be powering through work, but we made it through and they finally left. Whew.
Then, on the Monday before we left for Puerto Rico, I got The Call. If you're reading this blog because you're a beader, I'm sure you've gotten The Call yourself. It's that last-minute plea for the perfect piece of jewelry that comes from someone you cannot refuse -- your mother, your boss, that gal you just met but think would be a great pal and would like to impress, or, in this case, the bride-to-be. Yes, one week before the wedding itself and only three days before my flight (two before hers), my future sister-in-law called me for the first time ever to explain that though she'd been looking for some time, she'd had no luck finding just the right necklace for with her ivory dress and she wondered if maybe I might have something she could buy. Or borrow. . . . She's thinking pearls . . . She's thinking very thin chain . . . She's thinking a pendant for the V neck of the dress . . . Cleavage length . . . Not too white . . . Hold on, honey, I have that right here! Not really. I don't make bridal jewelry to just have around, so I knew there was no way I had what she was looking for. It would have to be made. Okay, I have three days, I can do it. So I start writing notes: pearls, cleavage, ivory, pendant, antiqued, 18-20 inches, maybe adjustable. And as soon as I get done with my notes and confirm that I'll do my best in the short time I have, she adds in a request for a bracelet and some earrings. Right. Of course. Really, what else can you say? (Have you ever been able to refuse The Call? If you have, for goodness sake, leave a comment and tell me how it's done.) I won't even go into how she went on to describe the dress she was wearing for the party the night before the wedding and how she needed a necklace for that too, since the selection of jewelry I took for that I got from my stash and she didn't wear any of it (though it did mean schlepping over $500 worth of jewelry to Puerto Rico and back for no good reason). Suffice it to say that when I hung up the phone, I was wishing I'd never answered it.
The task: one perfect bridal necklace, one perfect bridal bracelet, and one perfect pair of bridal earrings. The timeline: two and a half days. The mental trauma: immeasurable.
Although she had said that she thought a pendant-type necklace would be best because the dress had a low V neck, she said to do whatever I thought was best. So I did. I was thinking about the potential for all that boring empty chain leading down to a low pendant and how I wanted to avoid that. So I constructed a necklace that had a grape-like cluster of very small, slightly off-white freshwater pearls hanging at the lowest point with individual pearls spaced farther and farther apart along the chain as they moved away from the pendant. It was the first idea (and only) I had, and I loved the necklace the minute it was done. I put it on and took a crappy cell phone photo of it that I sent off to her for approval. She also loved it immediately. Okay, one down.
For the bracelet, I fell back on an old design of mine that involves three rows of beads connected along two strands of chain. (I say "design of mine" because I honestly had never seen anything like it before when I made my first piece like this, and I'm not sure I've seen anything constructed similarly since. It's definitely not something I learned from a magazine or tutorial, so for the extent of this post, I'm claiming this design even if you know it as "belonging" to someone else.) I used the same pearls and the same chain as for the necklace but to completely different effect. My favorite part of the bracelet was the closure, for which I used an old off-white MOP button, around which a loop of chain fit, and from which dangled two more short pieces of chain, each ending with a pearl. It's a simple design but elegant and very bridal feeling when made with white pearls. When I showed the bride-to-be this piece (not until I got to Puerto Rico), she dropped her head back, closed her eyes, and said it was exactly -- exactly -- what she'd been thinking of. Two down.
The earring story isn't very interesting. I just put together three pairs of earrings from off-white pearls and let her pick. She went with the simplest drops. They looked great on her.
In fact, it all looked great on her. And when I saw her in her dress and in my jewelry, all my stress and annoyance at having had to do something so unexpected but in some ways really important in such a rush at the last minute just fell away. She looked gorgeous and the jewelry was just perfect. Perfect. That was the word I heard time and again the rest of the evening as people complimented her on how lovely she looked and she told them I'd made the jewelry. They came to tell me how perfect it was. And it was. Here's documentation.
(Did I fail to mention they were married on a beach just before sunset? They were, the crazy romantics.)
It really didn't hurt my pieces that my new sister-in-law is a knockout with the best set of teeth I've ever seen. I was really proud of what I'd made for her, and I wished that I had done it a bit more uncomplainingly (though I never complained to her, of course, I mentioned my stress to everyone I talked to while I was working on the pieces and I'm still whining about it here obviously). When she returns the pieces, I'll try to take better photos, at least of the bracelet so you can see my clasp, since I think it's worth sharing (so you can do it too!).
The part of the story I left out until now: I was in a mild panic that my off-white pearls were not off-white enough to go with a dress she described as ivory. So when a run to my favorite bead shop did not produce, um, offer-white pearls (but did lead to more than $200 in other purchases), I went to a closer, smaller bead store to see if they had anything better. The didn't, but I still spent $28 on other stuff. Plus, and this is the best part, I got a $25 ticket for parking in a driveway even though there was nothing to indicate it was a driveway (no sign, no big X in the spot) except a lack of parking meter and some garage doors on a building that was on the other side of a two-foot bank of snow, meaning that the garage and driveway are in fact unused except as a means of generating parking fines by this neighboring borough. (My own sweet borough would never resort to such underhandedness.) So, final cost for me to make these loaner pieces: just over $260, not including any of the supplies I used or my time. Value to the bride: you got it -- priceless.