Beautiful Bird’s Nest Jewelry Tutorial

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I just spent some time in the Pacific Northwest, much of it outdoors, and saw all kinds of birds, from stately eagles to tiny finches. So with that in mind, here’s a super easy tutorial for you, beautiful bird’s nests! (Click here to see video of us making these on Home & Family!)

This is such a sweet project, a lovely nature-inspired bit of jewelry that is so pretty and makes a thoughtful gift.

There are lots of design choices you can make, wire color, bead selection, number of ‘eggs,’ and, of course, what the final project will end up being, such as a ring, pendant, even earrings.

Supplies P1050967

You’ll need:

26 gauge Wire

Beads — glass, gemstone or pearls

Needle-nosed pliers, flat-nosed pliers, wire cutters

Measure wire 24” long. Thread on bead “eggs” to the center of the wire. Fold wire in a ‘u’ shape, and twist wire 4 or 5 times cinching the twists close to the beads.

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Fold the twist under, so that the beads rest on top. Hold the piece between thumb and finger.

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To form the nest, begin wrapping the wires around the bead bundle, until about 4” to 5″ of wire remains.

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(Here’s the same step with only one bead and different wire.)

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(And again with two beads.)

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To secure the nest wires, pull the end of one of the wires from the bottom through the center of the nest similar to taking a ‘stitch.’ Continue “stitching” in several spots around the nest until the wires are positioned as you like them, but leaving a 2” to 3” tail.

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Pendant bail:

To form a pendant bail, pull up the tail of the wires, form a small circle with needle-nosed pliers and wire wrap the ends around the main wire with the other pliers.

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Underside of pendant

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Back of pendant

Finished Nest Pendant

And the front of our finished nest!

Adjust the nest and bail as needed. Add to neck chain.

To make earrings, simply make two matching pendant-style nests and attach to ear wires.

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Begin with a longer wire – about 36” long. Form the nest. To make the ring, place the nest on top of a ring mandrel. If you don’t have ring a mandrel, you can use a marker! Just make sure the end of the pen is tapered so the ring will slip off when you’re finished wrapping.

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Wrap the ends of the long wire around the highlighter (or mandrel) several times in opposite directions to form the shank of the ring. With the remaining wire ends, wrap around the shank several times to secure.

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Handy Sizing Tip: If making a ring, take a ring that already fits your finger, and slip it onto the highlighter. With a piece of electrical tape, mark the spot on the pen where the ring rests. Remove the ring and that’s where you’ll wrap the wire to make your nest ring shank.

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Design Tips:

For a Mom-gift, place one ‘egg’ in the nest for each of her children. For a birthday, make the ‘eggs’ out of the recipient’s birthstone.

Add some variety by using copper colored wire and sparkly glass beads.

If you use larger gauge (thicker) wire, you can make larger nests. (But remember, thicker wire requires that your beads have larger holes.)

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Enjoy… now go make something beautiful! With a TWIST!

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“A Penny Saved” — My New Book (In Honor of Lucky Penny Day)

To commemorate Lucky Penny Day, and with the hope that I garner a little extra luck today, I’m thrilled to announce that … I’ve written a book!

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This is my first foray into the world of publishing, and I’ve chosen the iBook platform. Technically, the book falls in the ‘”Enhanced eBook” category and, if you’ve never seen one, you’ve got to check it out. Along with text and graphics, these highly interactive books include pop-out glossaries, hyperlinks, photo galleries, instructional video, and a host of other high-tech thingamajigs all at your fingertips. For my latest work it means a myriad of possibilities for viewing and learning how to make your own precious, penny pieces.

P1050114 Lucky Leaf Hero 2 copy

I discovered Lucky Penny Day was a holiday just last year (which was fortunate, indeed!), when I first published my blog entry on how to make a Lucky Penny. (See the original post HERE.)

I thought it was a lovely time to remind us of one of those happy childhood superstitions:

“See a penny, pick it up, all day long, you’ll have good luck!”

Pennies tend to be a bit more scarce in the world than in the past, and the U. S. Treasury has even considered halting the minting of my favorite little coin!

But until they do, I’ll continue to pound, stretch, color and stamp on them.

A Penny Saved, Make Beautiful and Stylish Jewelry for Pennies… From Pennies! contains 5 projects, is available on iTunes, and can be viewed on an iPad.

If you missed my segment on Home & Family, here it is:



Celtic Knot Bracelet Tutorial

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To commemorate St Patrick’s day, here’s a project that incorporates an important Irish symbol – the Celtic Knot.  This bracelet is macramé, and uses one of the most popular types of “Celtic knots” (it’s called a Double Coin in Chinese knotting, and a Josephine knot in other macramé).

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There are many interpretations of the Celtic knot, which is characterized by loops and crosses.  The ‘classic’ Celtic knot has no end — symbolic of eternal love and devotion.  The most simple version of the knot is comprised of three points with connected intersecting loops, symbolic of the elements – fire, earth and water.

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The knot pre-dates Christianity, but as often occurs, the early Church leaders adopted regional motifs and incorporated them into religious symbolism.  For example, the ‘endless’ thread is symbolic of God’s eternal love, and the triple Celtic knot, like the shamrock, is often used to refer to the holy trinity.


Here’s what you’ll need to make your Celtic Knot Bracelet:

72” of leather cording – 1.5 to 2mm thick

4 to 6 Beads — with the hole large enough for 2 widths of cord to pass through

Button for clasp — with the hole big enough for one width of cord to pass through



Find the center of cord.  Thread on the button, tie an overhand knot to hold button in place.



Secure the button-end of the cord in the clip of your clipboard.

Tie first Celtic knot.

Using the cord on the left, form a loop.P1030592


Bring the right cord over the top of the loop and pull it under the left-hand cord.



There is a ‘triangle’ space at the top of the two cords, just under the knot that holds the button.  Place the ‘right hand’ cord through that triangle, then thread it under, over, and under the next cords.  Pull through.




Adjust the knot so the two sides are even and it sits near the overhand knot.  Click here to see video of tying the Celtic knot.



Slide on the first bead, and place it up near the knot.

Tie another Celtic knot, as above.  Add another bead, and continue until the bracelet is one inch smaller than you want the finished bracelet to be.


After your final Celtic knot, tie another overhand knot and pull tight.


Measure the diameter of the button clasp, and tie another overhand knot with that distance in mind, thus creating a loop for the button to pass through.


Trim off ends, and you have a finished bracelet!




A few tips:

If you have trouble with the bracelet laying flat, pin the unruly loops to a surface and let the bracelet sit overnight.  Think of it like blocking your wool sweater after washing! (My work and I both enjoy acupuncture!)



Buttons with a shank give you a bit more ‘play.’  If you use a traditional button (with holes drilled through the button), make sure you leave some space between the holes and the first knot.

Raw cording is a bit easier to work with – the ‘finished’ or ‘polished’ cording is a bit stiffer and takes some getting used to.  You can also make this bracelet out of silk cord, cotton twine, hemp or yarn, but I don’t recommend using ‘fuzzy’ cords… the result is messy-looking.

For a more masculine look, eliminate the beads and tie knots close together. I found that in making this bracelet with the knots against each other, it’s best to reverse the knot-tying direction, so as to eliminate twisting of the bracelet.  For pictures on how to tie the knot in reverse, click here. 


The bracelet can also be made with two or three strands of fiber, be sure that the holes in the button clasp can take the two or three thicknesses of thread.  This process takes a lot more time and patience, as the individual threads must be separated when knotting for a smooth, uniform look.  But the result is gorgeous!




On set with the bracelets.

On set with the bracelets.

Pounding Pennies – Make a beautiful Lucky Penny Pendant!

The shiny copper penny… ubiquitous, little valued and surprisingly versatile.

In 1983 the U.S. mint, in a cost-cutting maneuver, began making pennies out of zinc, and plating them with copper.  Today, a pre-1983 one-cent coin, which is comprised of 95% copper, is actually worth nearly 2-1/2 cents in metal costs!

But if I may add my two cents, this little scrap of titian-colored metal can be transformed into some of the most attention-grabbing and beautiful jewelry you can imagine.

Pendants similar to these at were popular in the 1970s, and long before.  You do need a couple of items that might be out-of-the-ordinary for some crafters/makers, but they are worth their weight in… pennies.  I’ll be posting more blogs using these tools, so if you’re interested in exploring the virtues of the pretty penny, it might be worth investing a few red cents for these items.

2mm Steel letter stamps – I’ve found them for as little as $8 at Harbor Freight, here.

  • Steel block
  • Small ball peen hammer
  • Drill with small bits
  • Awl or center punch
  • Dremel or polishing cloth
  • Jump ring
  • Chain or cord

Let’s get to it!

Clean coins.  The easiest method I found is one that I use to clean my copper teakettle. In a small cup, dissolve ½ tsp. table salt in ¼ cup of vinegar.  Add pennies.  It will only take a few minutes to clean them up. Just dip and done! Rinse in clean water, and dry.

Side note: If you don’t rinse the pennies, they will turn that desirable verdigris patina.  We may use this for future projects!

Stamp letters.  The most difficult part is getting them evenly spaced and straight.  One suggestion: Don’t be too picky.  Second suggestion: Be patient!  Place the stamps on the penny; strike with the hammer with certainty, but only once or twice.  You don’t want a double–strike, it will blur your letter.  Third: Be prepared to practice, or ditch a few mess-ups.  It’s only a penny!

(There’s a video tutorial for another stamping project I did a few years ago here. )

Drill a hole.

Drilling tips:

Mark the spot with a permanent marker.  Use an awl or center punch to dent the spot and keep the drill bit from wandering.

Tape down the penny or hold in place with a clamp.  Use a drop or two of machine oil on the bit to make the drilling easier. (I didn’t want to go to the garage, so I used peanut oil!)  Begin with a small drill bit, and if you need a bigger hole, drill a second time with a larger bit, this is much easier than drilling with the bigger bit from the start.

Polish penny and hang from a chain.

I use a dremel with a felt polishing tip, and some jewelry polishing rouge, but you can simply use a silver polishing cloth to buff the coin.  Oh, and use a fine-tip permanent black marker to make the letters more visible.  Connect to chain with a silver jump ring, and you’ve got a personalized keepsake.

They’re also really cool as a key ring charm.

Want more? Check out my book: A Penny Saved on iTunes.

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Get our your hammers and start picking up pennies… all day long, you’ll have good luck!

Not your Grandmother’s Cameo – Shrink Plastic Jewelry

I can be a bit nostalgic, truth be told, I’m a sucker for old things.  My Timeless Tamara jewelry line is centered around antique jewelry pieces, I love vintage fabrics, and my family often teases me about my compulsion to photograph old fences and buildings.

One of my favorite things to do is revisit classic crafts and give them a modern twist.  Update the macramé purse, if you will (will you?!).  So here’s my take on two old-fashioned looks:  A cameo and a silhouette.

If you don’t already know, cameos are made by carving gemstones or shells.  The finest examples of gemstone cameos are customarily carved from agate, onyx, or other layered semi-precious stones, where carving reveals contrast.  While stone cameos can be traced back as far as 25 BC, shells and glass began appearing during the Renaissance.

Silhouettes originated in the 18th century, and were traditionally profile outlines of people cut from black paper, then mounted and framed.

Here’s now to make your own updated cameo/silhouette pendant, using thoroughly modern materials.

Things you’ll need:

Translucent Shrink Plastic –mine is from Grafix (available @ Amazon), and Aleene’s (

Dye-based inkpads, or permanent ink pens (like Sharpies)

E-6000 or other glue suitable for use with plastic

Punches and scissors/sizzix cutting dies

Heat gun or Oven


Wooden or acrylic  block

Pie plate or cookie sheet


Jewelry findings/chain/pin back

A quick side note on shrink plastic:  The translucent stuff is pretty easy to find in craft stores.  But if you want to be SUPER thrifty, you can use #6 plastic, which is found in salad bar or to-go containers.  It’s usually clear, so you might try sanding both sides to get that milky-colored look.  It’s sometimes hard to find pieces big enough that are flat to do this project with, but give a whirl, Up-cyclers!

First punch or cut out your scalloped circle.  This will be the base of your cameo.  Since shrink plastic reduces by about 75%, I started with a punch 3-1/2” in diameter (mine is from Marvy Uchida).  Then punch or cut a circle that is 1/4” smaller in diameter.  This will be your middle layer.  Once shrunk, the base circle will be about 1-5/8” in diameter.

Finally, cut out your subject piece.  Hold or tape the template on your plastic and cut with sharp small scissors.  You can find templates for everything shown, here: Silhouettes.  If you want to cut your own subject shapes, just make sure that before shrinking, all the elements are in proportion to each other.  That way all the elements will look perfect when reduced.

The letter “T” I used is Lucida Calligraphy font, sized 140pt.  If you’re making a monogram/letter subject, I recommend that you use simple cursive fonts.  The plastic usually warps a bit when shrinking, so straight fonts can get a bit tweaked.  Also, small details can melt or get stuck, so simpler is better.

Normally I would recommend punching a hole in the plastic before shrinking, but I found that my circles sometimes shrank to ovals, so my pre-punched holes often ended up in the wrong place and the piece hung wonky.  So drill the holes after everything is shrunk.

Take your smaller middle circle and sand one side in two directions to rough up the surface.  This will help the ink to adhere to the circle.  Once you’re done sanding, apply dye-based inks to color, and let dry a few minutes.  If you are using Sharpies to color, you don’t need to sand plastic.

Ink colors intensify as the plastic shrinks, so I recommend creating a test sample with scrap plastic before coloring the finished product.  Also, sometimes the intensified color looks beautiful on the ‘wrong’ side – take a look and see if you like the color on the back better than the front.  This is your project.  You decide what looks best!

Time to shrink.  You can use a heat gun or your oven, set at 250° to 300°.  Here are the pros/cons for each method.

Heat gun Pros:  It’s super fast – about 30 seconds to shrink.  You can watch it go (c’mon.  It’s fun!).  It’s easy.

Con:  Items distort a bit more.

Oven Pros: Even shrinking – minimal distortion.   Less possibility for sticking.  You can do all your pieces at once.  Shrinks about 10% less than with a heat gun.

Cons:  Takes a LOT longer (5-7 minutes for bigger pieces, but if you’re doing all pieces in one batch, it’s pretty quick.).  You can’t watch it unless you have a window in your oven.

It’s a bit hard to tell in this picture, but the circles on the left were done in the oven, and came out perfectly round, the ones on the right are more oval.

Once your items are shrunk, but still hot, grab the wood or acrylic block and press down on the plastic items for a few seconds to make them completely flat.  Let cool, then assemble and glue in place.  Drill holes near top with 1/16” drill bit.

Add jump rings, chains or pin backs.

Because you can choose your subject, and it’s made from plastic, your new cameo looks completely modern, yet unmistakably retro.  Enjoy your modern classic!

The English Hallmarking System

When looking through old English gold or silver, whether a locket, a pendant (a piece of Tamara Jewelry!), even a candlestick or a piece of flatware, you might notice tiny markings stamped into the metal.  These are hallmarks, and they can tell you a lot about the piece’s history.

The hallmarking system began in the United Kingdom during the 12th century when an edict was laid down that no piece of silver “was to depart out of the hands of workers” until it was tested and marked as genuine. 

The English system has 3 identifying marks.

Examples of English Hallmarks

Examples of English Hallmarks

The Assay Office mark.  This mark tells the region where the piece was made and each region has its own mark.  The Leopard stands for London, the Anchor, Birmingham, England.

The Standard mark.  This indicates the metal content of the item.  In English hallmarks, the Lion Passant is the symbol for Sterling — 925 parts-per-thousand silver.

In 1696 a new series began with the inception of the Britannia standard (the standard mark being the form of a female figure, called “Britannia”), an alloy containing 95.84% silver, with the balance usually being copper.  The Britannia Standard was used from 1697 to 1720, but there was conflict between makers who used the Britannia vs. Sterling Standards.  Britannia Standard silver was softer and more expensive, but carried cache’

Silversmiths lobbied the government, and the “sterling standard” on silverware production was restored on 1 June 1720, and continues today. The “Britannia standard,” however, was not abolished and remained in use also after 1720 as a voluntary alternative to the “sterling standard.”

The Date Letter mark.  At the end of the 15th century, in an effort to ensure accountability by the Assay Master – also known as the “Keeper of the Touch,” – the date-letter system was devised.   With the inception of the date letter, inspectors could trace an offending or unscrupulous assay-master from the date letter.  This quality control measure became a chance benefit for collectors, for now they could determine the age of a piece.  

The date letters began appearing on silver around 1478, and continued in 20 year cycles for more than 200 years without a break.  (The letters J and from V through Z were omitted, so that there would be five cycles in a century.) Each cycle has its own style of letter and/or its uniquely shaped shield.

So, with these hallmarks, and a little research, you can find out What, Where and When pieces were created, giving you a little peek into their history.  Enjoy!