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On Acknowledging Your Accomplishments

On Acknowledging Your Accomplishments

There were many things I had intended to create and improve upon before participation in my first widely known show – South University Ann Arbor Art Fair. We all have hopes and dreams right? They push us to do better and to be better at what we value as important to us. Let me pause for a moment and say this is not intended to be a complaining session. Please read on…

I was not able to finish my most important pieces before the show. I had a torch malfunction on the Saturday during the 4th of July holiday. This was my last bit of scheduled studio time before the work was to be completed and submitted.

Smith Little Torch with new hoses in place

With the help from family I was able to get it resolved; though it was not the easy repair it was suppose to be. Four days later I had a superbly functioning torch but under the pressure of only being able to squeeze two more days in the studio I folded. I was devastated.

It took me a few days to pick myself up again and to realize all was not lost. When I did take a step back I saw that I actually accomplished quite a bit. For starters I redesigned my business card, hang tag and product cards all in time to get them printed. I was also able to send an additional ring to be molded and cast. Under normal circumstances it too would have been included in my offerings at the show. My biggest accomplishment was that I designed my makers mark in time enough to have the tool produced and be able to stamp my newest pieces. This is huge!

While I did have my moment of feeling like a complete failure I still accomplished an enormous amount of things in a short amount of time. Though I was not able to show my latest rings this time, they are closer to being ready for the next opportunity. It’s important to give yourself credit for the things you do accomplish. As long as you keep working toward your goal; each step, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction. Don’t ever forget it!

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My First Adventure With My Vintage Brother KH 35 Knitting Machine

First garment knit on KH 35 by Kate Wilcox-Leigh
Brother KH 35 knitting machine from 1952
Brother KH 35

I happened upon my Brother KH 35 at an antique mall during the summer of 2011.  Fortunately it was fairly complete accept sadly the machine had been separated from its manual. Not bad for a machine that originated in the 1950’s.  After an intense search I found that Knit & Sew World had the manual for sale and I was able to purchase it September of the very same year.

Many events kept me from experimenting with it until recently when I was granted a significant amount of dedicated time to feed my creative desires.  The first task was to remove the felt bar so I could exchange a broken needle in the center of the bed for a better one.  That went okay but I found the felt had considerable wear on it and is in need of replacing.  I will tackle that in time.  I believe the machine will work better and have less dropped stitches once that is done.

Once I was satisfied that I could actually cast on a garment I chose Infinite Loop designed by Olga Buraya-Kefelian.  In my opinion this is the perfect beginning project for the machine knitter because of the beautiful simplicity of the garment.  The length and amount of stockinet stitch makes it an excellent candidate for machine knitting in general.

Brother KH 35 Knitting Machine At Work
Brother KH 35 Knitting Machine At Work

I cast on after breakfast and this project consumed me.  The first day I dedicated 10 straight hours to it including breaks for lunch and dinner.  The machine knitting portion should have been done within this time but I experienced a huge number of dropped stitches.  I had to inspect each row before I went on to the next one and make repairs as needed. The garment came off the machine twice when the yarn escaped the holder.  I had gotten too far to give up so each time I carefully put the live stitches on a hand knitting needle and picked up the dropped stitches.  Perseverance won and I was able to complete the machine knitting and properly take the garment off the machine.  I grafted the ends together and picked up and knit the armholes by hand.  As my two year old would say “Ta Da!” it is officially done.

Infinite Loop Designed by Olga Buraya-Kefelian
Infinite Loop Designed by Olga Buraya-Kefelian

I love the project and I love what this knitting machine is capable of doing.  After I take a long break from it I am sure we will be friends again. I will look into replacing the felt bar and anything else I can do to improve its performance.

I look forward to experimenting with unconventional materials like wire. I would like to learn how to do decorative stitches and shaping as well.  In time I believe I will be creating interesting pieces that I look forward to sharing with you.

Thanks for reading. Until next time; If making things feeds your soul then do everything in your power to spend at least a small amount of time each day making it happen.

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Jewelry, My Passion…..Obsession

Kate Wilcox-Leigh First Earrings

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Jewelry, My Passion…..Obsession

I suppose I have always been interested in jewelry, even in my youth.  My parents tell me of a sleepwalking experience I had as a child.  I apparently woke up in the middle of the night and was knocking on their bedroom door exclaiming that I had to make sure Mom’s jewelry was okay and that I needed to see it.  I don’t actually remember this experience but I find it an interesting anecdote that sheds some light on my childhood.

I have always been intrigued by jewelry as long as I can remember.  Friend’s and I would go to the mall and buy multiple pieces of cheap jewelry because that was what we could afford.  I would pile it on and occasionally when a piece broke I would fix it (to the best of my ability).  Those parts that I could not fully repair, I would tuck away for future use.

I had quite a collection by the time I set foot in a bead store for the first time.  What I found there gave me the means to put some of these things back together. I was still interested in the jewelry I saw while looking in different stores but I found it frustrating when a piece wouldn’t fit me properly.  I also found my self critiquing different pieces and figuring out what I liked and didn’t like about the work.  I was thrilled when a jewelry making class was offered to me in high school.

Kate Wilcox-Leigh First Earrings
First Earrings

The first pair of earrings I made was a complimentary set.  As I look back they were actually pretty out of the ordinary.  I had been playing with the four letters that made up my name and I split the KA and the TE.  I cut them out of a sheet of nu-gold with a jewelers saw.  I filed the edges smooth and then I emery papered them to death (practically).  I had begun with an 18 gauge sheet of metal and ended up with two very sharp and thin earrings.  My desire to make them “perfect” was so strong that the strength of the pieces was compromised.

I remember being very frustrated in my inability to do what I had set out to do.  At that moment of time I HATED jewelry making and I wanted to drop the class. Well I guess the metal and the process got under my skin because not only did I complete the

Art Scholarship Alert Best Three Dimensional Piece by Kate Wilcox-Leigh
Best Three Dimensional Piece

semester but I went back for another and another still.  The third one was an independent study.  I also was a teacher’s aid for a class my jewelry teacher taught.

Art Scholarship Alert awarded me best three dimensional piece in my final year of high school. Since then I have acquired a BFA in Crafts focusing in Metals from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia.  I continue to seek more education today.


I love the power jewelry has as an art form.  Jewelry serves its function when it is worn and viewed by others. Jewelry has the ability to be a reminder to the wearer.  It can commemorate a special event in a person’s life.  It can serve as a talisman of an important person or religious figure to the wearer.  It can provoke emotions and ideas.  It has physical mass; it can be oppressive or light as a feather.  One can wear jewelry on the outside of clothing to be seen by others.  One could wear a pendant under cover to be there for the sole purpose of the wearer.  Body adornment has been a part of the human existence for a very long time because of its personal expressive nature.

Thank you for stepping into my world for a moment.  Hopefully we will meet again soon