Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rhapsody in Teal

Here is the finished necklace that I showed in progress on the kumihimo disk two posts ago. I am absolutely ecstatic over how it turned at, as immodest as that sounds. (You like it? If you live in the D.C. area, you can bid on it at the Blair High School silent auction Friday evening.)

It is actually a necklace in two parts. The first part is a spiral rope necklace about 22 inches long. It was woven on the disk using matte-finish size 8 teal beads on six of the threads (C-Lon Bead Cord) and two threads loaded with super-sparkly silver-lined teal beads.

When I started the necklace, I knew I would have to do something to jazz up the simple rope, but I wasn't sure what. I had some freshwater pearls died peacock blue that coordinated with the teal beads beautifully. At first I tried to make a beaded bead using the pearls, but that didn't come out well. I was flipping through my beading books for inspiration and came upon a crocheted rope by Rona Loomis in Creative Beading vol. 3. She had accented her necklace with 7-inch beaded ropes that had various fringe and dangle treatments on the end, and tied the way you see illustrated on my piece. I knew immediately that I wanted to borrow the technique.

Problem No. 1: I wasn't sure if I had enough beads left for another 7 inches of cord. I had plenty of the shiny beads, since the main rope was made up of mostly matte ones. I thought an all-shiny-bead rope would look garish, so I came upon this grandiose idea to change the proportions as I wove the braid. It required a great deal of math and counting, winding and unwinding the bobbins to switch the proportions of beads, measuring every inch, and more than a little angst as to whether I would have enough matte beads, but I wove it so that the first inch on both ends was all shiny beads, followed by another inch of half shiny, half matte, then the middle three inches was the same ratio as the main necklace--three parts matte and one part shiny.

It was a cool hombre effect, but frankly, I don't know that you'd ever notice it unless you stuck your nose right up to it. (Here, go ahead. Stick your nose right up to it:

Problem No. 2: how to embellish the ends? I envisioned using those peacock beads that didn't get turned into a beaded bead. I knew that pearls have tiny holes, so before I began weaving, I made sure that the C-Lon cord would fit through the bead holes. Hah! This is where I outsmarted myself. When I finished the seed bead part and tried to string on the pearls, they wouldn't fit. I had stiffened the cord ends with Fray-chek to string on the seed beads, but the pearls just wouldn't go. I struggled for more than an hour and managed to get only about three pearls on. Forcing the cord through the holes caused it to lose all its stiffness, so I would have had to re-dip every cord in Fray-Chek and let it dry after every bead.

Time for a plan B. I rummaged through my supplies. Luckily, teal and aqua are among my favorite colors, so I had options. I found these glass chips that coordinated nicely. I was a little afraid that they might make the fringe too heavy, but they don't at all. Success!

I also used glass chips to make coordinating post earrings: I like their simplicity.

(Ironically, I wound up having matte beads left over. I had been reluctant to use them all up in the braid because I figured I'd need some to stitch up into tubes for earrings.)

So yes, it was hours and hours of work for a necklace I'm giving away, but I hope its eventual owner will feel the good karma it's imbued with--it was a happy process to make it, and I'm happy to show it off as an example of my best work.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

My new favorite color ...

... is Longhorn orange. Time to go shopping for a mug that says, "my daughter and my dollars go to Texas."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Kumihimo 101

My last post showed off the beginnings of a tubular peyote-stitched gold beaded necklace that I said would be for my daughter's high school's silent auction. After stitching a few more inches on it, I realized it would take forever to make the long rope I had imagined, so I set it aside for something that would materialize a bit faster. Behold my kumihimo-beaded rope.

For those not familiar with kumihimo (which is just about everybody, duh), it is an ancient Japanese braiding technique traditionally done on a wooden stand called a marudai. However, several years back, an ingenious Japanese artist (I can't recall her name, and I'm too tired to Google it), invented a handheld loom made of foam. That is what I'm holding in the photo. Kumihimo is normally used to make textile braids, but when you add beads to the thread or cord and drop a bead at every pass, it creates a beautifully textured beaded rope that looks a lot like beaded crochet.

Although it takes forever to load the beads onto the eight strands (I'm using size 8 beads in two finishes of teal; the stringing medium is C-lon cord), the braiding goes relatively fast--a lot faster than the peyote stitching, anyway. (Thanks to Adrienne Gaskell for giving me the tip to stiffen the beading cord using Fray-check. This allows you to thread beads onto thick cord without a needle. If you use a needle, you have to use much thinner cord in order for it to fit through the beads doubled up).

If you want to learn more, check out the works of Jacqui Carey and Rodrick Owen, whom I believe are considered the foremost authorities writing in English on the subject. However, I want to give a shout-out to a series of posts on the Stone Heart Beads blog I discovered that led me to want to learn more about this fascinating but obscure art. The four-part series led me to the book Braiding for Beaders by Anne Dilker of Moss Hollow Pottery. There is also a Yahoo group devoted to kumi.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pretty in Purply Pink

My little fingers cannot weave beads fast enough to post a new finished work every week, so I'm going to have post some filler here, to feed the relentless maw that is the blog.

I never did show off my bounty from the Virginia craftsmen's show, so I'll do that here.

Everything except the old-man pin is from Lori Anderson of Pretty Things. I bought the lovely purple and pink lampwork-beaded necklace (which I have worn twice already) and the larimar earrings at the fair itself. The peachy-pink nautilus earrings I ordered from her a week later, after I realized I was still pining for them (she ships fast, too!). The pin is carved wood and I bought it from a craftsman named Tom Vosler. Although I will wear it as a pin, I was thinking mainly of using it as a funky backdrop for jewelry photographs. (I swear it looks like my first college creative writing professor, although I didn't think of that until I took the photos yesterday.)

And here is a WIP. It is destined to be a necklace that is destined to be my donation to the Blair High School silent auction at the end of April. I love how it is turning out, but man oh man, working with these teeny size 11 beads means it is taking forever. On my other peyote spiral necklaces, I could weave about an inch an hour. But I've put more than five hours into this baby, and it is barely four inches long. (I added about an inch more after taking this photo yesterday afternoon.)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Back to the beads

My last several posts have veered off topic from what this blog is supposed to be about, so I'll post a couple of pics of two necklaces I talked about earlier as they were in progress. 

This one I call "Russian Gold" because it features the Russian spiral stitch. I like how the long rope is broken up by the large glass rondelles on either side. Note that neither of the two spiral rope columns pictured in my original post here were used to make this; I made three new ones that were all the same thickness. (And no, I never solved the mystery of why try #1 was fat and try #2 was skinny.) 

And lookie here at the necklace I first blogged about way back in January

I called it "Down and Dirty" at the time because that was the week's theme in the Year of Jewelry Project and earth tones were my inspiration. I actually finished the necklace within a week or so of that blogpost, but it took me several more weeks to get around to taking decent pictures of it. By then, the YOJP's theme was "Windswept," so that's what I called it when I posted a pic there. (I wrote that it evoked the swirling maelstrom that autumn leaves sometimes get caught up in.)

This was my first time doing double spiral rope stitch. I had seen the stitch before in several beadweaving books, and although it looked very easy, I was never tempted to make anything with it because I didn't like the finished effect. However, this design, by Alicia Shems (in the book Creative Beading vol. 5), features these ingenious graduated loops. I think the effect is stunning. If I remember correctly, I altered the pattern only slightly, using somewhat larger beads and longer loops. Check out Alicia Shems' amazing work at the link above!

I think I said in my last post that I would show off some of my bounty from the craftsmen's fair, but I haven't been able to take pictures of that, either. Yesterday morning I was shooting some pics of jewelry when my camera batteries died. I got some new batteries later in the day, but today I had to disassemble my light box to reorganize my space. I'm trying to establish a permanent setup so that I can take pictures day or night using appropriate artificial light (lamps outfitted with daylight spectrum bulbs.). Right now, I'm limited to shooting on Saturday and Sunday mornings and hoping that it's not a cloudy day.

I was hoping that restoring my lightbox setup would be my this-weekend project, but it may be turning into my next-weekend project.