28 Aug 2011

Beaded beads – trying something new

Further to comments I’d posted earlier about launching my ‘Credit Cruncher’ range of less expensive items, I have been giving some thought to designs to utilise some of my stash of beads. Many of the things I bought in the early days as I tried different techniques in my hunger to learn as much as possible, were no longer suitable for the style of work I’m currently doing.

I seem to have stashed quite a lot of seed beads – largely to use as small spacers and the like in other designs, but I’d also tinkered with some modest bead weaving. Bead weaving is one of those jewellery making techniques that I love to see and am attracted to the work and can see the skill and value in, but think I’m perhaps short on the right sort of patience to do more intricate work myself.

My first attempt, was the middle one here – intended as a netted surround to a single larger centre bead. When I say my first attempt, it was actually my second, the fist one was rather over-estimated on the size of the beads and would have covered a golf ball! I simply didn’t have any beads that big.

But I had the idea that making some larger beads from the smaller beads I have already might give me a range of less expensive earrings to market, especially with an eye to the holiday and party season ahead – I known {{{shudder}}}.

I was given a book of beaded designs for a Christmas or birthday gift in the recent past and this had several beaded bead tutorials to follow. I’ve opened this book on several occasions with a needle in my hand and never progressed very far with them – they look like they should be simple enough to follow, but the techniques are outlined more like a knitting or embroidery pattern with colour coded charts. After another frustrating session with it yesterday, I just decided that the fault in not grasping it wasn’t entirely mine, but the patters were simply poorly described. At least for the way my mind works. I’ve since found others that I could follow straight away.

The faceted gold beads in this front beaded bead are Murano glass bought for me in Venice. They’re made on a square mandrel over silver, so they’re very sparkly.

I hit my bookmarks and re-visited some sites I knew had tutorials (some as videos) and even after scribbling down some very incomprehensible-looking notes, I was much more able to follow these than the initial book and was soon on my way with some designs.

I also decided pretty quickly that there were things about these designs that I thought I’d prefer doing differently, so once I’d grasped a few techniques, I pretty much did my own thing and have made my own notes so that I can come back to it later.

It’s always amazing to me how much you learn – and how quickly – from trying something new like this. You quickly find shortcomings in the instructions and think there are better ways of doing things – hark at me like I’m an expert.

Once I’d made some larger netted beads, it was clear they were too large for earrings, so I set about adapting the technique to make something smaller using only one row of main beads – in this case, satin finish glass pearls with seed beads and more Murano seeds as the accents. This design ended up pretty much my own invention.

Swarovski crystal pearls with black seed beads.

For example, the instructions I followed for the netted beads above instructed to keep the thread taut and keep good tension. It became evident pretty quickly, that trying to keep it taut with your fingers as you worked (which in itself was like trying to plait fog) simply gave rise to too loose a bead, so I simply repeated each stitched round as I went along, doubling the thread, so that the tension was much more consistent and gave a nicer result – my first attempts look okay, but feel somewhat squishy and fluid to the touch, where later ones feel solid.

When selecting beads to work together, I thought I had some nice combinations, but when finished, they look rather less subtle than I was hoping for. Largely I think because the small beads are simply too large, they need to be really tiny. When teamed with some matching Swarovski crystals, they do make quite luxurious looking party bling. My husband said they looked like Jacobean jewels. I’m not sure the pale pink ones will progress, they’re very pink.

I think with beads of this nature, any unnecessary movement between the beads will give rise to more wear on the threads and shorten their life. And doubling the thread is bound to give greater longevity to the bead too.

It also became evident pretty quickly, that the sort of seed beads I’d accumulated weren’t really the right sort for the task – largely because they were far too big – I hadn’t realised just how tiny some would need to be to give the right look. So I think my resulting beads lack some subtlety and would benefit from gentler colours and rather smaller beads for the netting – even though these seemed incredibly small to me – and my ageing eyes.

But it was an interesting departure from my usual work and nice to hone some different skills. I found making them to be totally therapeutic and addictive as you get totally absorbed in the rhythm of the rows and counting the beads. But I’m not sure that the resulting designs are going to end up as best sellers for me. I’ll finish these items up (and the first two need to be re-made to make them tighter and more robust, not to mention I can see a few stray stitches) and see how they look as finished earrings. At the end of the day, what sells in my shops isn’t necessarily what I could wear myself – I don’t go to anything like enough parties for starters.

4 thoughts on “Beaded beads – trying something new

  1. I can see from those tutorials that you really had to do some experimenting to get the effects you wanted. They really do have that lush look of period beads and I think you have a terrific eye for color! I hope these sell well for you.

  2. Thanks Diana. I’d like to try some slightly more subtle ones – I find them pretty therapeutic to do. The tutorials I started from for these were on this site: http://www.beadiferous.com/beadtutorial.php – the two I used were the ‘Filled Net Pendant’ as the basis (much amended as I worked) for the 3 bead earring beads and the ‘Netted Bead’ for the other type – the one big enough for a golf ball!

  3. These are terrific! A very clever way to use beads, esp. when you just have a few of each kind left. I’d love to see a tutorial of this.

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