Thursday, January 19, 2017

Learning to do Off Loom Bead Weaving

Since I enjoy loom bead weaving so much, I thought I'd try to do some off loom weaving. For my first attempt I bought the components as a kit from Fusion Beads (except for the Silkon thread and the #12 beading needle I already had) and followed the instructions online. I did have to pick a different color than the one in the project directions as they were out of stock on the lovely 6mm Ruby Lila Vega Luster 2 Hole Honeycomb Jewel Czech Glass Bead.

The pattern works vertically from bottom to top (for the most part) and since the hex beads are two hole there are some interesting twists and turns involved. It amazes me how anyone figures these patterns out from scratch - at least for now, since I'm a bare novice. There has some kind of calculus or algorithm, I'm certain, to finding the best possible path!

I'm pretty happy with the outcome, though - the pattern instructions were very well written, easy to follow. I've only finished one of the set that's meant for earrings because I'm thinking that I might, instead, make it a component in something else.

The next thing to try was peyote stitch. I'd learned the brick stitch from the Endless Loom instructions, since the first couple rows have to be done off loom. The thing about peyote beading is that pictures, instructions and patterns for it seem to be everywhere, so I thought I should try to learn it. So far, I'm able to do a pretty good block of solid color, but I'm struggling to follow a pattern since the rows overlap and the direction of the stitching changes with every row, unlike looming.

I used my Beader's Bible (note: this is an affiliate link, if you want to buy this and use this link, I'll get a small commission from Amazon) to learn how to do the basic peyote stitch.

It took a while to get the first couple rows done correctly, that's a bit fiddly with the 11/0 beads in one color. I probably should have gotten some big beads in red and blue, just like the book and practiced with those. I usually pick the hardest way to do something when I'm just learning. 😊 Peyote stitch has each row of beads off-set from the previous one. Like this:

So here's a shot of the first few rows of peyote I've successfully made. I used Miyuki Chocolate brown11/0 beads from Artbeads and Nymo thread, size D in white. (Unless otherwise mentioned, I don't get compensated for mentioning & linking to my sources for beading materials. I just want to save you the time if you want to try something I've done). If your project pattern recommends a certain thread and needle size, choose them for best results. 

Also in the picture above, are the tools I would use for any bead weaving project - needle, thread, seed beads, thread conditioner (you can also use beeswax, I believe), sharp scissors, and a beading mat on your work surface - something that keeps the beads from rolling around.  In this shot I'm using a Bead Buddy Jr. travel beading board - these are great because you can securely save your work in progress - from cats, bumps, spills and for travel (note: this is an affiliate link, if you want to buy this and use this link, I'll get a small commission from Amazon)  

Both sides of the Bead Buddy have the fuzzy-fabric surface. You can find beading mats all over the web and in craft stores, and put them in box lids for a less expensive solution. I guess you could also cut a piece to size out of an old microfiber blanket for a bead mat, and save even more - I haven't got an old one to try with so I haven't used that option personally.

Now my challenge is learning how to read a graphed pattern and work it into the peyote stitch. If I get it right, I'll show you how!

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Loom Weaving - Endless Loom & Beads Reviewed

I have been doing some bead weaving lately, learning some of both on and off loom techniques. It's a bit time consuming (especially off loom, which is completely new to me) and I don't know when I'll be expert, or at least satisfied enough to try and sell any of it, but I always like trying out and learning new things.

On loom bead weaving isn't exactly new for me. I don't remember when I got my first "Indian Beadcraft Loom" but I do remember enjoying beading on one. It may have been when I was in Girl Scouts or even later as a teen in the 70s when beaded things were very much in style.

These days you can buy a number of versions of beading looms - from the simple standard crafts and kids looms that haven't changed much at all since the 50s, to the newer Jewel Loom (a Beadalon product), which is great for its portability and many other cool features (I love mine), to the Ricks Loom (distributed by BeadSmith) that leaves you with just two warp ends to tie off (don't have one yet, it's on my wishlist), and my latest purchase, Endless Loom which leaves no warp ends to deal with at all.

The instructions that come with the loom are well written enough to get you working immediately, but I found watching a YouTube video a couple times, once all the way through to see the whole process and then again as I was making a bracelet, stopping and starting as needed. The BeadsSmith's video gives a nice intro, showing one application with elastic cord (the loom is a BeadSmith product).

Other videos show alternate applications and techniques, just put "Endless loom" in the YouTube search. Because I bought my loom and beads from Artbeads I watched their tutorial. Here's what came in the kit:

I started off with the clasps and two rows of brick stitched beads attached to them as instructed, warped the loom and started beading. I chose a very simple pattern to start. The first two rows on either side of the clasp are a bit curved on the first two I tried (top and middle as shown below), but by my third bracelet, I was able to get it pretty straight. I'm not sure what I did right that time! Perhaps using more beads and the 4 strand clasp helped?

I used white Silkon #2 thread for the first two projects and tried Frost WildFire 0.20mm for the last one. Both types worked just fine. I think I'll go for darker and thicker threads, maybe matching one of the dark colors, for my next one. 

I also went from using the 3 strand clasp to a 4 strand one, used 9 vs 7 beads (these are size 6/0 seed beads, TOHO, Artbeads Designer Blends) and added some tiny metal cylinder beads on the outside edge to see how that would look. 

The TOHO beads aren't consistently the same shapes, some are more round and some more cylindrical. They are fine for this pattern, as I'm not using large blocks of a single color, but I'd want beads that are very consistent for more graphical designs.

It took about one and a half tubes of the Designer Blend to do the 7 bead bracelet for 7.5" wrist. The larger bracelet at the top was almost 2 tubes - I was working with the 8" spacer bars but it turned out to be 9.5" with clasp, not sure how I managed that.

I didn't use all the bead colors available in the mix with any of the bracelets. The left over beads are more of that one unused color and of the center bead color that wasn't used twice in each row. They'll be great with other projects so it's not a concern.

I really like the Endless Loom, it's a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to trying all kinds of variations and beads with it.
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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Nearly Finished for the Finished Up Friday Facebook Post

Yesterday I showed you one of the necklaces I am working on this week. It was from this worktable submitted to the B'Sue Creative Group on Facebook:

I have really appreciated being a part of this group as it helps me get things done by having a weekly deadline for showing the work in progress on Work Table Wednesday (WTW) and then on Fridays there's the "FUF" deadline (Finish Up Friday). It's very challenging with a day job to do much more than a few hours a night on anything during the week, so I have found that having just 3 or 4 things on the table will get me at least 2 or 3 completed pieces to post on Friday.

Over the weekend in my studio, I can think up designs, gather the materials, and bring them into my inside office on Sunday and not have to worry about walking back and forth in the cold or dark between the house and the studio on Monday - Friday. At least until the days get longer and warmer.

You saw the beige cabochon pendant I was working on yesterday, today I'll show you where I am on the necklaces for the bird stamping and the key.

The bird (I think it's a swallow because of the split tail) is a brass vintage stamping from B'Sue boutiques with a dark red-brown finish and I affixed it to an antiqued copper glue on bail. I used Czech glass beads, seed beads as spacers, and some metallic (or perhaps they're coated with a metallic finish) beads, those are the ones closest to the bail, for the necklace. 

I'm not 100% sure it's exactly how I want it - I might change the piece so it has an offset toggle clasp and put the bird on the clasp - but that's where I finished off this evening. 

Lastly, here's an antique key about 2" long, with two wing stampings and a glass cabochon attached with E6000 glue. I made the chain using jump rings - the largest are closed 12mm brass rings connected by two 8mm twisted wire jump rings with glass #6 seed beads on them. The smaller 6mm jump rings nearest the key are simple antiqued brass also linked in a 2x1 pattern. From the place where I stopped making the upper chain tonight, I think I'll use some finished chain from my stash to make it about 20 to 21 inches rather than continue making it with links.

Now to come up with next week's ideas.
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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Back to the studio worktable from my break over the holidays! I hope yours was as lovely as mine. My son was home from his Army post in Georgia, an my daughter visited several times from across town (and here in L.A. it's a lot of town - takes her an hour or more to get here). We celebrated Christmas Eve with my brother's and sister's families, too.

With all that visiting and celebrating, I didn't do much jewelry work over the holiday, but did get a few things started during the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. One of the pieces I'm going to be finishing up this week is a necklace for this pendant I designed:

I set a beige glass cab from B'Sue Boutiques off center in a Vintaj brass bezel (you can find it at Beadaholique) and added gold microbeads and these raw brass faceted cube beads from Rings & Things around the cab with E6000 glue.

The neckline will be strung on Soft Flex Metallics Medium Antique Brass Color beading wire, using the beads shown below. The round beige beads and the two tone bicones came from The Beadin' Path vintage bead collection. Sadly, The Beadin' Path closed so no more of these lovelies for me. I'm also using the brass faceted cubes mentioned above in the necklace:

Here's where I am so far:

No, that's not a dead fly just above the pendant, I'll explain in a bit. The pendant setting's (bezel's) loop is in the same plane as the bezel (see below) and so the pendant can't be strung directly onto the beading wire, it would need a connection that's at a right angle to the bezel, like a jump ring. I didn't like the idea of attaching the pendant to the neckline with just a jump ring, though, I believe that would be too insecure, allowing the pendant to slip off the necklace if the jump ring separated just the tiniest bit.

What I needed was a bail that I could securely string through and attach to the bezel. I have a small number of these little looped things, I call them bead cap bails because I can't remember what they're really called. They have a loop at the top and four 'petals' into which you could press and glue in a small bead (I guess).

What I did to make it a bail was curl up two of the side petals and pinch in the other two, squeezed them closed around the pendant loop and added a generous amount of GS Hypo Cement. I'm hoping it will work! So far, so good and the glue hasn't had that long to set.

Here's an extreme closeup of the bead cap bail in it's original shape and, below it, as it's set on the pendant. The bead cap bail is very tiny, only 6mm (~1/4") long. I think you can see how I bent it into the pendant bail fairly well. I wish I could remember where I got them, but I have had them a long time!

Ok, time to finish that necklace and start on another one!

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