Archive for August, 2009

Turquoise and jasper necklace

(21-22 July)
I made this necklace as a present for my mum. This is still before my proper pliers arrived, so I had to be very careful. I was also using a slim knitting needle to bend the wire round for some of the loops. Round nose pliers are a godsend!

Turquoise and jasper necklace

Turquoise and jasper necklace

I got to this point in the process and was thinking “…you know, this would have looked better with tarnished bronze-coloured wire. And that centre pendant is All Wrong and should probably have been all one piece” when I completely distracted myself by that scan. Following a tip from elsewhere that putting your jewellery directly on a scanner can sometimes work really well (and sometimes not at all), I had a go. It looks amazing! (This was the first thing I scanned – I went back and did some of the other pieces later). Sadly, I can’t scan at the moment – more on that eventually.

Turquoise pear-shaped beads, jasper rectangles, amber seed beads, and silver-plated wire.

Here’s the finished necklace and the fastening – I made a hook and eye again.

Turquoise and jasper necklace (finished) Hook fastening

Turquoise and jasper necklace (finished)

(Hmm, rechecking my supplies list, those are actually brown serpentine rectangles. But this necklace is firmly fixed in my head as being “turquoise and jasper”. This is before I started naming them, so that’s its name ;p).

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Purple cascade necklace

(July 19th)
I made this necklace using the instructions at I used little purple seed beads and my random purple bead selection, and I made a wire hook closing instead of the large bead-and-loop one in the instructions, since I didn’t have any suitable beads for that.

The triangular end-pieces took a lot of fiddling to get the hang of. The instructions for brick stitch here with arrows showing the direction of the thread were a clearer explanation that let me understand what I was supposed to be doing. After that it went much more easily!

Purple Cascade, detail of fastening

Purple Cascade, detail of fastening

This took me a long time – all one evening and most of the next afternoon. I gave many thanks for my big-eye beading needle, because trying to string thin Nymo thread through a tiny-eyed needle would have been an exercise in massive frustration. I had to work out how to weave in the ends securely, and attach new pieces of thread mid-strand.

Purple Cascade Purple Cascade scanned

Purple Cascade, photo and scan

Whoops, I had meant to resize the scan before uploading. Oh well – look at that one if you want to see details!

Purple Cascade as worn

Purple Cascade as worn - can be twisted for a different look

I am very pleased with the outcome, and it’s a great way to use a lot of variously-coloured beads.

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It’s mysteeeerioooooousss!

In a well-aimed marketing decision, BeadsDirect sent me an email advertising that they had Mystery Bead Hampers available in limited stocks…

They had me at the name, really – Mystery Bead Hamper! Mystery Bead Hamper. I did in fact wander round the house intoning that for a while. Even better, it had substance – a surprise package where I knew I would like the contents? Excellent.

I ordered one, in due course it arrived. I smiled at the shinies.

It was advertised as containing overstock and remainders – it mostly consisted of strings of semi-precious stones, along with a few large pendants, some findings, a set of needles, a tube of Delicas, a card of high-quality beading thread, and a large packet of silver-painted plastic beads shaped like stars, hearts and butterflies. Those last might sound tacky, but they look nice and I expect them to be incredibly versatile. They were held in a nice sturdy bead box with compartments and carry handles.

The semi-precious stones were split into two colour categories – one section had peach, orange, mustard and crystal, the other had green, blue and grey (with hematite/hemalyke).

The only thing I wish was that they’d included an inventory list of everything in the selection. I spent a while going through the website to compare and matched up most things easily, but because they included remainders and because colour of stones can vary quite a lot, there were a couple of strands I couldn’t identify. They were peachy-orange round beads – the smaller ones pinker, the larger ones oranger. I decided they were probably golden/honey jade… but more on that later.

(The hampers must have been limited – today, they have a mystery seed bead selection available instead).

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A wire pendant

I thought I’d try something that used wire in an actual piece of jewellery, so I started with a pendant. I’d been reading the tutorials on – the Beginners’ Corner and Basics sections are very handy when you’re a total beginner – plenty of small steps and photographs.

I made a pendant that consists of a large aquamarine chip hanging from a circle. The circle’s threaded with seed beads in grey, greens and clear. There’s a loop at the top to hang it on a necklace. It’s made with thicker wire than I use for the trees – 0.6mm silver-plated copper.

Water pendant Water pendant scan

Water pendant

The first picture is a photograph, the second is a scan of the pendant that I took later – the photo has better colour fidelity but is fuzzier. The aquamarine looks far too grey in the scan.

It took me rather a long time for something so simple – the first time I was wire-wrapping the aquamarine chip, my wire broke just as I was finishing it (reason #1 not to overwork your wire!) so I had to take it off and start again.

Things I learned in the process:

  • Be very, very careful with your wire. More careful than that!
  • Round nose pliers. I need some.
  • Ditto for jewellers’ pliers in general

My loops had to be made diamond-shaped because without round-nose pliers I could only make very wonky-looking circles. A diamond at least looked deliberate! Also, if you looked closely you could definitely see scratches on the wire from the pliers, because their inside surface wasn’t completely flat.

(I also have a photo with the pendant on the little notebook I’ve started using to sketch my designs – the quality’s not great, but it amuses me to put them side by side).

Water pendant on notebook

Water pendant on notebook

We are now up to July 16th in my adventures in jewellery-making.

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I made a wire octopus as a practice run for a project I have in mind. I couldn’t find any instructions for this sort of thing, so had to make it up as I went along. It’s recognisable, though I would rather find a better way of doing the head – my boyfriend suggested putting a large bead in there to give it some solidity.

The octupus is made of very thin (0.315mm) silver-plated wire. You can bend the tentacles in different directions easily, though you don’t want to do that much or you’ll break the wire. It’s about 1.5 inches tall – for the project I had in mind, I would have to work out how to make very small octupuses that still had form. The octupus is sitting on a shell and then a dark grey pebble that I brought back from a pebble-collecting trip to Brighton beach.

It was very hard to photograph, especially as I’m relying on a rather old digital camera that has no macro mode. The ones above were the least-blurry of my attempts…


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Cherry blossom trees

My next tree! I made this one out of 0.5mm diameter brown-coated copper wire. This is a little thinner than my gold-coloured craft wire, which is a slightly odd size (it’s somewhere between 0.5mm and 0.6mm – smaller than one but larger than the other).

Brown wire tree Brown wire tree, another angle

Brown wire tree, two views

I got the tree part done, and then was stuck for a little while, because I wanted to do something different from the stone chip approach. I wanted something that suggested blossoms. I was dubious at first about using seed beads, because I wasn’t quite sure how I’d get them to cluster. So I left it overnight, came back the next day and made a two-tone cherry blossom.

Brown wire cherry blossom Brown wire cherry blossom, another angle

Brown wire cherry blossom, two views

I’m extremely pleased with how it turned out. Also that the sun came out, which helped the photograph immensely! What I did in the end was to string a small number of seed beads onto a branch, make a little loop that held them in place about halfway down it, then add a larger number on at the end for the ending loop. It was a good thing I left the branch ends so long – when using chips they can be shorter. This gave the clustering effect and meant there was plenty of blossom on each branch. I did them in two types – the lower branches had the larger ecru seed beads along with the little clear ones on them, while the higher ones had small red and clear beads. (I’m not convinced that ecru is the best description of their colour, but I can’t think of anything better – they’re frosted off-white/neutral coloured).

It takes noticeably longer than using chips, but the result is lovely.

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Mother of Pearl

Part of the supplies my mum sent me for my birthday were a strand of little mother of pearl discs. I had a few goes at trying to work out how I would use them.

Mother of pearl plus red seed beads necklace

Mother of pearl plus red seed beads necklace

Temporarily strung on monofilament, it consists of mother of pearl discs spaced out by dark red and ecru larger seed beads, along with lighter red smaller ones. I wasn’t entirely happy with this. It’s pretty and all, but it wasn’t what I had in mind.

Mother of pearl plus clear seed beads necklace

Mother of pearl plus clear seed beads necklace

This was the second try: mother of pearl discs and teeny clear seed beads. I like this one a lot more. It’s very simple and delicate-looking, and I think I’ll get round to stringing one properly.

I worked out, however, that what I really wanted was for the mother of pearl to be one of the smaller elements in the design, not the largest. At this point, my BeadsDirect order came to the rescue.

Chinese ruby in zoisite, mother of pearl and seed beads necklace

Chinese ruby in zoisite, mother of pearl and seed beads necklace

This consists of Chinese ruby in zoisite octagons, mother of pearl discs, and clear and translucent grey seed beads. I really like the Chinese ruby in zoisite – it’s a very dark green with red and black mottled inclusions. I added a silver-plated screw clasp so I could try it on… and discovered that it was about 10 seed beads too long on either end. It had taken me ages to get the calottes (bead tips) on the ends, so I left it as-is for the moment. It’s also rather heavy because of the large stones. I hadn’t considered that before… I may restring it at the right length on beading wire, and if I’m still not happy with the weight/hang I’d have to redesign it so it uses fewer octagons.

It was a learning experience, shall we say.

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At this point, I needed supplies

I wanted to make more things, but needed something to do it with. I spent some time checking out UK online bead stores, and my friends pointed me in the direction of bead shops in London – I visited The Bead Shop and London Bead Shop, which are both very close together in Seven Dials. I found The Bead Shop much more useful – it’s larger (two floors) and has a large semi-precious stone selection downstairs, along with a much better selection of seed beads. While both have a lot of beads you can buy individually, that’s all the London Bead Shop has, and I am more interested in being able to buy by the strand.

I ended up getting a load of large packets of Czech seed beads, two strands of discounted blue-and-white millefiori (4mm and 6mm), some chocolate brown cord, coils of silver-plated and copper wire, and some thin acrylic beading “thread” to practice with. The seed beads looked like packets of multi-coloured sugar when I got them home and piled them up.

Aside: I went for seed beads in quantity instead of the higher-quality Japanese ones so I wouldn’t be afraid to experiment. If I have plenty, I can do whatever I like with them and not feel like I’m “wasting” them. Also, they look perfectly fine for my purposes – I am not yet doing bead weaving, or anything that requires an ultra-regular shape.

I repurposed containers for storage: I actually found the ideal thing to keep my large quantities of seed beads in – the local hardware shop had a plastic octagonal lidded container intended for serving chips’n’dip. Eight compartments plus a round central one. I poured my beads in with glee (they make a great noise when you do that). It shows them off side by side, like a colour wheel. It’s incredibly useful, and if I ever find another one I’ll snap it up.

Octagonal wheel, full of seed beads

Octagonal wheel, full of seed beads

Later, I got hold of two sets of three clip-down lidded small containers from a pound shop, intended to be used for refrigeration. They were just the right size to hold the remaining seed beads that didn’t fit in my octagon.

My boyfriend has also picked up a couple of storage containers from Maplin for me – these are divided into a lot of very small compartments that are non-removable and won’t mix up the contents if you turn the box upside-down. They stack well, too. They go for about £2 each and are very useful for smaller quantities.

My birthday was coming up, so I pointed my mum at Beads Direct, which is my favourite of the online shops I’ve looked at – it has a huge range, lots of semi-precious stones, and has good prices. A little while later, I put in a big order myself. Lots of stones and chips, some wire and thread, needles and findings. I’d also picked up some needlenose pliers and wire cutters from that selfsame hardware shop – electrician’s tools, not jeweller’s, but they made it easier to make…

Another tree!

Lapis lazuli tree (click through for a secondary view)

Lapis lazuli tree (click through for a secondary view)

My gold coloured craft wire again, with lapis lazuli chips from my new supplies. I also added little translucent grey seed beads on the branches to make them look a bit knottier. Twisting the wire with actual pliers instead of tweezers let me twist it a lot tighter – who knew!

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How to kick-start an obsession

I’ve made occasional pieces of jewellery in the past, with bits and pieces I had lying around – broken costume jewellery I inherited, little earrings made from beach shells, friendship bracelets – but nothing for years. I’d never done anything with new bought-for-purpose materials or tools.

So what started it?

There was a confluence of two factors:

a) I bought this necklace from my local Sainsbury’s:

Brown and turquoise necklace

Brown and turquoise necklace

Cheap, but I love turquoise and brown together. However, when I got home and tried it on, I didn’t like the way it hangs. I had the vague idea that hey, I could split it into a two-strand and a one-strand necklace, and those would suit me better. (Note: I haven’t got round to this yet…)

b) I’d been reading the journal of someone who makes jewellery and wire trees. I loved the trees, and the jewellery-making helped put the vague idea above into my head. I was inspired to go and get out the small amount of bits and bobs I’d brought with me when we moved to London – I had gold-coloured craft wire and a necklace of amethyst chips, of the type you get from Crystal and Gem Museums, that I had never been inclined to wear. I took the necklace apart, used some heavy-duty tweezers as pliers, followed the instructions, and made a tree!

Amethyst chip tree

Amethyst chip tree

I was incredibly happy with this – it’s lopsided and the branches are a bit messily clustered, but it’s gorgeous and I made it!

From that point, I was hooked.

That was the end of May.

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Hello world!

I intend to put my jewellery-making posts in this here space. The current plan is to make myself a nice beady header image (hopefully with the help of my scanner), tidy up my posts on the pieces I have made already, and continue from there.

Image-capturing technology willing, I would like to do some start-to-finish following of some designs. I’m a beginner (started all this in June), so there will be a certain amount of reinventing the wheel, but it’s the kind of thing I find really helpful, so I would like to add to the step-by-step tutorials available.

I am interested in… *deep breath*

  • wire sculpture
  • wire-wrapped jewellery
  • beading on thread
  • semi-precious stones
  • wooden, shell and bone beads
  • seed bead designs
  • beading on tigertail and memory wire
  • micro-macrame
  • Everything else I can get my hands on!

Sadly, lampwork is completely out of my reach at the moment, but it looks fascinating.



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