Monday, 30 January 2012

Problems with dangliness

At about the time that I made those earrings for my sister, I made some earrings for myself, too.

The shell beads are really good for earrings because they're so light, compared to glass beads of the same size; also the greens and blues in them go with virtually all the colour schemes I use. I got the other beads from our local craft shop before it closed down (of course it's sad that it closed down, but there was a silver lining; some of their stock later turned up in the local stationery shop at greatly reduced prices).

Even though these earrings are not as dangly as the ones I made for my sister, they're still pretty dangly and I found that they often got caught in clothing; there were some jumpers that I just couldn't wear with them. So after this I stopped making such long dangly earrings, unless specifically requested. At some point I plan to re-do them using simple (non-wrapped) loops to take some of the length out, and maybe add in a small crystal or two for teh bling ...

Earrings for my sister

Super-dangly earrings

My sister loves dangly earrings, so I decided to make her some super-dangly ones in green (one of her favourite colours).

I used sterling silver earwires, and 4mm silver-plated wire for the dangly sections.

Most of the green beads came from the pick-n-mix section of Viking Loom, which is one of the many reasons to visit the amazing city of York. They sell colour-themed bead mixes by weight, so you can either take a random scoop or pick out the ones you like best.

The square shell beads at the bottom (you can't see them that well in this picture, because they have annoyingly swizzled themselves to be side-on), are from PJ Beads, an online / mail order company which was recommended to me by a more experienced jewellery-making friend, Helen. They've recently updated their website, although the image quality is still much better in their print catalogue.

I miss my sister! I wish I was able to see her more. Like all three of my sisters she's an incredible person, and she always makes me smile when she's around. I'm going to see her next in a few weeks' time and I'm really looking forward to it.

One of my very first necklaces: for my niece

Double-crimping disaster and superfluous jump ring - oh dear! But gold seed beads looking lovely - yay!
When I started beading, I had two nieces (and now I have three! but that's another story) and for my first beading Christmas, I thought somewhat rashly "I know! I can make them necklaces for Christmas!!!"

Well, in retrospect, maybe I could have done with a little more practice at this before making presents to give away, because things kept going wrong all the time, but despite this I spent a very happy Sunday afternoon designing necklaces for them.

This is the necklace I made for my younger niece. It's red, green and gold, of course, to go with the Christmassy theme. The red beads are the same ones that I used here. The long green ones are from another jewellery-maker. The other, larger beads are all from a vintage piece of costume jewellery from the antiques fair. The ones either side of the central red bead are actually a very dark, glossy green. The reds and greens complement each other and make the colours stand out - a lot more than it looks like from this photo, which was taken in wintry December afternoon light. Everything's very symmetrical, which gives the necklace quite a formal, ceremonial look.

I am least happy with my attempt at double-crimping (probably wasn't even necessary, as the beads weren't actually that heavy). Also, I can't for the life of me understand now why I felt the need to add a jump-ring for the lobster-clasp to clasp on to. That beading wire, I now know, is just going to ping out of the gap in the jump ring any time you're least expecting it.

Oh well. You live and learn. And nobody seemed to mind that much.

I still like the alternating gold and Czech glass seed bead section by the clasp.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Springtime bracelet giveaway

The original bracelet - pretty beads!

New version - longer beaded part, and now with toggle clasp
The box of purple beads I used to make the "springtime" necklace now had quite a few odd purple beads left over - a lot of them were one-offs. At this stage (a year ago) I really wasn't very confident with any design that wasn't strictly symmetrical (actually, I'm still not very confident with asymmetrical designs!), so this one took well outside my comfort zone just because of that. I also had some bugle beads which I had never worked with before. So they all came together in this multistrand bracelet: which was the first time I'd tried multistrand stringing.

You may be spotting a theme here, and possibly, in retrospect, this was trying too many new things at once. One problem was that the strands ended up being too short, so I attached them to two oval links and then attached those to a lobster-claw clasp. But I hadn't banked on three strands being heavier than one, so the bracelet, when worn, always ended up with the clasp / jump rings / links on the top of the wrist and the beads underneath. But the whole point was that the beads were pretty and I wanted them on the top!

I did get compliments on the colours of the bracelet, though, so recently I decided to re-string it rather than waste the pretty beads. I decided to simplify it a bit by taking out the extra small beads and crystals I'd interspersed amongst the bugle beads, and added extra bugle beads to make the beaded part longer. This time, I had the idea of "notes on a stave" so tried to stagger the beads a bit more systematically than the more random design I'd used before. And instead of a lobster clasp, since making the original version of the bracelet I'd picked up some flower toggle-clasps cheap from a woman who was winding down her jewellery business due to finding employment elsewhere, and decided that they would fit with the general springtime theme.

One thing I didn't see coming was that some of the beads had holes bigger than the diameter of the bugle beads, so they slid over the top of the bugle beads, a bit like in a Pandora bracelet (man those things are popular - I saw someone else wearing one today at work). This sliding-over-the-bugle-beads wasn't a problem in itself, but meant that the bracelet ended up shorter than I'd planned - thankfully it was still just long enough to fit around my wrist, although it's quite a snug fit now (at least this means it doesn't swizzle round anymore!). Another thing that didn't go quite right was that I forgot to avoid adding big beads too close to the toggle-bar end of the bracelet - however, luckily it's still possible to do the clasp up.

So I'm now quite pleased with the finished result, and the main problem is that my own wrist is just slightly too big for it! So if any small-wristed readers of this blog would like to have this bracelet - please just comment here, or send me a message, and I'll send it out to you! First come, first served :-)

Sunday, 22 January 2012

The springtime necklace, version 2

And this is version 2 of the necklace! It has a cylindrical lamp-bead in the centre (from the same set as the other two lamp-beads), instead of the pendant.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

A springtime necklace

I made this necklace last spring. I'd seen pictures of wire-wrapped pendants and wanted to have a go at it, so I tried winding my 0.4mm wire around my 0.8mm wire. It was quite hard to get the long end of wire through the heart shape without kinking it, so I found it easier to cut the 0.4mm wire into several sections. After that was done, I wanted the heart outline to be a bit thicker, so I went round again with another lot of 0.4mm wire, but this time added small purple seed beads, which were supposed to be like buds on a branch in springtime. Then I hung the pendant on a necklace made of beads of different sizes, to give the sort of bobbly effect I was looking for. In the far right of this picture you can just about see a lovely purple lampworked bead; I added in two of these for extra bobbliness.
Shortly after I made this necklace, I visited my youngest sister and her husband over Easter-time. It was wonderful to spend time with them. They are both such loving people and they are so incredibly generous and kind. The colours of the beads make me think of the trees that were all around their house then, heavy with pink blossom.

However. It has to be admitted that there were certain practical problems with this necklace. The first one was that it turned out that having a massive silver heart pendant hanging round my neck did somewhat limit the opportunities for wearing it. When I was trying to look serious, it just didn't seem right somehow. Also, I kept accidentally spiking my son when I picked him up and cuddled him, which seemed a shame. Another practical problem was that I only thought of adding a clasp after I'd crimped the loops in the beading wire at both ends, and so I had to attach the clasp using a jump-ring. But the beading wire was so thin that it kept popping out of the gap in the jump-ring, so that the necklace had a habit of suddenly undoing itself when you were least expecting it. This was inconvenient. I tried to fix this by adding extra wire-wrapping next to the clasp, but instead of the intended rustic effect this just looked untidy.

Ten months on, with a bit more practice at making necklaces, I have decided to re-string this one, without its pendant, so that I'd be able to wear it more often. It is now much improved - longer and swingier and with a few more lampwork beads dotted along it - and with a nice gunmetal-type clasp which complements the grey foiled beads, rather than the silver-plated one it had had before, which had been a bit overly shiny for the gentle colours of the beads.

It is good to be able to take things apart and put them back again even better.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

It worked - by accident more than by (conscious) design!

This bracelet is a fairly early creation that actually worked (by which I mean: it turned out to be something I liked for myself and ended up wearing a lot). The oval beads are Indian, lampworked (handmade) beads, in that lovely deep colour that's not quite purple and not quite blue, alternating with silver spacers and clear crystal bicones. The bracelet was made to go with the necklace I posted a picture of in my first post, so the oval blue beads are the same in both projects. The crystal bicones are an antiques-fair find, which is why the bicones get a bit smaller nearer the clasp - I didn't have enough of the same size, so I thought I'd use graduated sizes instead. The oval and bicone beads contrast in shape and colour but both reflect the light well (as you can see in this picture), so they went well together.

The thing that made the design work so well in practice was pure serendipity - I had a few of these lobster clasps, which are very secure once they're done up but can be a bit of a bother to open and close: I'd previously tried a jump-ring for the other side of the clasp (the part the lobster-claw holds on to), but this method proved a bit fiddly for bracelets, so this time I decided to use an oval-shaped silver link instead. Actually this was mainly because these links were on sale at reduced price in my local bead shop, and I'd bought them for something else entirely which didn't quite work out, but it turned out that the oval shape of the link nicely reflects the oval shape of the blue beads.

Then I attached one more blue bead to the oval link, using a wrapped loop on a silver headpin, and that makes the clasp-side just heavy enough that the biggest bicone always ends up sitting at the top! Also, the bead on the wrapped loop swings nicely around on its oval link, and clicks onto the adjacent blue beads in a very pleasing way, and the movement makes the beads sparkle and shine even more.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Reverse bartering - an English family custom

The story behind these earrings is as follows. Last summer, I was getting ready to drive over to a family wedding together with my son, when I got a phone call out of the blue from my dad, saying that my cousin-once-removed had forgotten her red earrings and could I make her some quickly please? So no pressure there then - having to make one of my first pair of earrings, in under an hour, while in sole charge of an excited three-year-old who was refusing to wear his smart wedding outfit which I'd carefully chosen in advance!

The other thing was, I didn't really have any actual red beads, but after a bit of a dig through my already embarrassingly large stash, I remembered I had a few of these little red cloisonne beads - but then they had gold metal on them, so I wanted to do the rest of the earrings in gold colour too - but I only had these rather thick headpins that I'd bought from another beader and which are a nightmare to wrap neatly. Cue much panicking.

Anyway, somehow I finished them, and took them along (a bit embarrassed that the wire-wrapping was a bit messy - however, I did at least take care to file down any sharp edges), and we had one of those "reverse bartering" situations you only seem to get within families - she offered to give me £19 for them - nineteen pounds! I was astonished she would offer so much - but happily, I eventually managed to get her to accept them as a gift.

The most important thing, and a really nice memory for me from the day (apart from the sight of the bride, in vintage fifties apparel, enjoying her pint of real ale!), was that the cousin-once-removed really loved her last-minute, custom-made earrings. Well, either that or she was so polite you couldn't tell the difference, but that's par for the course in English families, you know. You have to take praise at face value when you get it, or you'd go slightly crazy.

The day was not an unmitigated success, however; the car had an argument with a Yorkshire dry-stone wall, which the dry-stone wall won conclusively. Luckily the only damage was to the paintwork on the bumper, which doesn't count in my book because it's only plastic underneath.

Oh, and I never did manage to persuade my son to wear that smart wedding outfit.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

What's the point of making jewellery if you can't wear it as much as possible?

Last spring I bought a book on wirework. Somehow I was brave enough to try wrapping a cabochon. It was really fiddly! The cabochon and silver(-plated) spacers, I bought via a specialist retailer online - and the other beads were cobbled together from some items I'd bought at our local antiques fair.

I am very proud of this necklace, and I don't want to give it away (a lot of the things I have made so far have been gifts for other people), but I haven't worn it much either, because I tend to dress pretty casually.

I learnt from this experience that it's really important to understand who and what you're making jewellery for (even if it's you!). Unless it's tailor-made for a particular special event, it's probably a good idea to ensure that an item is light and robust enough that you could wear it out and about without worrying about it.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

The story so far...

This is a new blog, but the story goes back a little while.

I was on holiday a couple of years ago with my family. I went to a craft centre and found myself in a tiny shop, a sort of Aladdin's cave. You could buy gorgeous handmade jewellery made of pearls and semi-precious stones, but even better - for just a few pounds you could string your own necklace from (what seemed then) a tray with a vast selection of small beads. I was fascinated, and duly made myself a necklace of blue-glass beads and green shells, strung on light blue cord. The shop-owner showed me how to knot the cord to make the length adjustable, so that it could go over your head and then be shortened. The shop-owner had told me that her bead stash had mainly come from eBay at very competitive prices, and that she had taught herself beading. Maybe I could do that, I thought. That was it. That was the start of it.

I was pleased with what I'd done, but when I got home I realised it wasn't quite right somehow. Basically, it was very obvious that I'd made it myself rather than bought it in a craft show or shop! It also didn't look much different to the efforts of the six-year-old who had been sitting next to me in the shop...

I went to the library, and found a book. Then another. Then another. And then I discovered that my local craft-shop stocked a small selection of beads, findings and even some beading kits. I bought a kit, which I think was called "necklace with blue beads". I put the kit together. I got loads of compliments. The original necklace was re-strung on beading wire with seed beads and a ready-made clasp, and turned into a birthday-present for my mother.

Then I had a go at making wrapped loops (you can see I was still stuck on the colour blue at this tyime):

I freely admit that I'm still a beginner. But now I'm starting to appreciate the joys of putting different colours (not just blues!!!) and textures together, and seeing whether they get on with each other. It is a lot of fun. And, since exactly that time, the rest of my life has been changing, too. This blog is my story.