My second kumihimo bracelet

I decided to make a second kumihimo bracelet with blue and silver beads. Many years ago I would have preferred this color combination over the other one, but my tastes have evolved. I now think having them both be silver-lined makes the colors blend together in one shiny mess.

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Then I found other kumihimo patterns and decided to try the wider spiral. I think it works better with these colors because they are farther apart so there is more contrast. This bracelet looks better from a distance.

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This time I used a disk template from CraftDesignOnline.com and glued it onto a cardboard circle. Having evenly spaced slots made it easier to work with.

I cut each string to 15″. I don’t remember if I put 36 beads on each strand. I ended up using all but the last ones. The beaded portion of the braid is 5 3/8″ long, but the entire braid is 6″ long including the end caps. (This information probably isn’t useful to you unless you also have 5.5″ wrists.)

I have a correction to state about the desired length of the bracelet. The length of the bracelet alone does not determine its size. The width also matters. To illustrate, if you had two identical lengths of string and strung large beads on one and small beads on the other, the one with the larger beads would result in a smaller bracelet than the one with the small beads. That’s because the “inner circumference” of the bracelet determines the size. Since the larger beads take up more space than the smaller ones, they reduce the inner circumference of the bracelet. Here’s a diagram that I painstakingly made, to show this. Pay attention to the purple dashed line.

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From this, we know that having a 7 inch long braid does not guarantee it’ll fit a 7-inch wrist, because the width of one of these kumihimo braids with beads is 7.5 mm.

After my first experience with gluing the end caps on, I knew to cut off more of the cord so that it will all be hidden inside the end caps. I did a better job this time.

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I had actually made this bracelet about a year ago, and had this draft saved for months before finally posting it now. I have since made more elaborate kumihimo, which I will show in posts to come.

Flowering Vine Bracelet

The idea for this bracelet came from this tutorial by Beadifulnights. As you can tell, I did mine a bit differently. The most obvious difference is that I made my vine and leaves the same color. The reason was that I still have a lot of those cheap green seed beads left over from another project, so I wanted to use as many as I could. This is a project where it doesn’t matter if the size and shape of the seed beads are uniform. In fact, I actually used the different sizes to my advantage.

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I also shaped my leaves differently and modified the spacing of the flowers. I like how it turned out.
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Winter necklace

Lately I’ve been making jewelry from patterns because it really is a lot easier than testing my own designs. The designer had to straighten out all the kinks beforehand, and they don’t include all the failed attempts in the final instructions. If you tend to only make from patterns, it can be easy to forget how challenging it is to design something.

This necklace was based on the Christmas Necklace pattern by Trinkets Beadwork. It’s available for free on Craftsy (you’ll need to create an account, but it’s free to do so).

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Because of my choice of colors, I’ve decided to call mine a winter necklace. The funny thing was that I had bought the 6mm matte sapphire Czech glass beads a year ago because they were discounted, but I didn’t have a plan for them. I wasn’t sure what to do with them until I discovered how nice they look with the Toho gilt-lined aqua opal seed beads.

The design is quite lovely. It looks like the seed beads form star shapes.

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I modified it a bit because the part that goes between the 6 mm bead dangles reminded me of a uterus. Somehow it didn’t in the photos on the pattern.

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Looks like a uterus?

Initially, I didn’t want to use more bicone crystals, but out of the three variations I tried, it looked best with the extra crystals.

Even though the instructions said you’ll need 5 grams of seed beads and I had an 8 gram bag, I ran out of beads! My modification actually used fewer seed beads than the pattern calls for.

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I only had 3 seed beads left, but 5 more dangly things to make until the end of the necklace.

The instructions say to go until the desired length is reached, but I went with what made sense for the number of beads recommended. I measured the length and it was almost 18 inches. The clasp would add another inch. I tried on what I had, and I didn’t want it that long, so I took apart two units from the other end. (I hadn’t tied any knots yet.) This made the finished necklace 16 inches. I figured if it’s too short, I can add an extender chain. Doing this gave me some beads back, which allowed me to finish the necklace without having to buy more beads. (I even had 17 seed beads left over. Not sure what I will do with them.)

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All the reclaimed beads. Yay!

What I didn’t pay attention to at the time was that the middle of the necklace wasn’t a dangle, but rather one of the crystals in between. Had I only removed one unit from the end, there would be a dangle at the middle. This is no big deal, since it can be worn slightly rotated so that there is a dangle in the middle.

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Giving Kumihimo a try

I first learned about kumihimo from a book on making jewelry. It looked confusing, so I didn’t think about it again until I was looking for portable crafts. At the time, it didn’t seem that portable, with all the strings and bobbins, so I didn’t think about it again until recently.

One morning last December I woke up with a desire to make my own kumihimo disk out of cardboard. It wasn’t my idea. Several months earlier I had seen a tutorial for making a braiding disc out of cardboard on Homemade Gifts Made Easy. I made the braiding disc according to the tutorial, and gave it a try with some Chinese knotting cord. It was fairly quick and easy. Then I wondered if I could do kumihimo with that, and found some video tutorials. The disk used was more complicated, as were the braiding patterns, so I made my own 32-notch disk out of cardboard.

I read here that kumihimo isn’t traditionally done with beads, but I’ve been wondering if it’s a faster way to make a spiral bracelet than beadweaving. This video by Beadaholique shows how to make a kumihimo spiral bracelet with beads. It’s very clear, which is how I was able to follow along with supplies that I already had.

I happened to have a spool of green S-lon that I had bought for a commissioned repair job. It’s not a color that I would normally use, but since I didn’t have any other use for it, I decided to try it for kumihimo. That’s why the color of the string doesn’t quite work with the beads, but it’s a test, so it’s okay. In case you were wondering, the beads are both 8/0 TOHO #223 and #2117.

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Seeing how much extra string and beads she had leftover in the video, I decided to go by the tip of 3 inches of string makes 1 inch of braid, and give myself extra for the beads. Since I have a 6 inch wrist, I would only need a 5 inch braid, because clasps usually add 1 inch. I cut each string at 2 ft, and only strung on 40 beads per string. The length was manageable so I didn’t need bobbins. I simply looped the string through the last bead again, like a stopper bead.

The cardboard disk actually works, though I’m sure a machine-made foam disk would work better. I might buy one if I get more serious about kumihimo. I basically eyeballed the spacing for the 32 slits, which is why they’re not even. For that reason, I need to be careful to keep the beads under the string when the spaces are smaller. Edit: Since writing this post I’ve found Friendship-Bracelets.net has a printable kumihimo disk template.

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When I finished, I measured the lengths of the remaining strings. They were about 13 inches each, which meant I used about 11 inches for my 6.25 inch bracelet. I think approximately 15 inches would be enough for me next time. (I’m giving myself 3 extra inches for holding the strings in the disk.) I used 36 beads from each string to make the beaded part 55/8 inches long. It looks like it takes 12 or 13 (size 8/0) beads on each string to make 1 inch. Keep in mind, the numbers I’m giving here pertain to one string, so multiply them by 8 to get the totals. Or, if you don’t like doing math, just give yourself a ton of string and beads. I like to be precise to minimize waste of materials (and the time it takes to string on extra beads).

I was able to find simple cylindrical end caps with loops for finishing the ends. (For this particular bracelet, I used the 4mm antique brass ones.) I wrapped the ends with tape as shown in the video, but I had no idea how short the end caps were, so I had to trim the ends some more so that they’ll fit. In the process of fitting it, the tape came off and the braid started to unravel. I quickly coated the ends in E-6000 and pinched the strings together, and stuffed them into the end caps. Some of the green string still shows. Oh well.

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Since I didn’t have any antique brass jump rings, and the only brown wire that I had was 22 gauge vintage bronze, I decided to try making my own split rings. Even though I gently hammered them to work harden the wire, I might replace them with real jump rings in the future. The clasp is very beautiful, but it adds 5/8 of an inch to the bracelet, making it 7.5 inches. I might switch it out for a smaller clasp, and save this one for another bracelet that is done nicer.

Edit: I just bought some 20 gauge antique brass wire, so I made jump rings and switched the clasp for a smaller, simpler one. It really changes the look of the bracelet. Before, the flower clasp was drawing attention away from the braid, but now the beads are the main focus.

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The smaller clasp only reduced the size of the bracelet by 0.25 inches, though. Now that I know the length of the end caps and jump rings are 0.75 inches, I will subtract that from my desired length to determine how long the braided portion should be.

I read that S-lon and C-lon are basically the same thing, so I bought some aqua C-lon (because it cost less than S-lon) for future projects.

Big Twist Earrings

This is a design I wish I had come up with, but alas, it’s not mine. I learned it from watching the Orecchini Big Twist Tutorial video by MilkyBeads Bijoux. The video is in Italian, but since she showed every step, I was able to follow along. (Orecchini is Italian for “earring.”) I actually made written instructions and a photo tutorial for my personal use, so I wouldn’t have to rewatch the video every time I wasn’t sure what to do next. However, I am hesitant to share it here for copyright reasons: one being that it’s not my design, and I don’t want my photos to get made into a collage for a DIY site.

A few months ago my boyfriend commissioned me to make a birthday gift for his cousin. Her favorite color is blue, so I chose to use silver-lined dark aqua (Toho color code #23B) seed beads, as I like that color, too. The photos don’t really show the color correctly. The beads really are more aqua than blue.

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In this photo I’ve tried to correct the color of the beads.

One thing I like about this design is how flexible the completed pieces are. It’s kind of fun to bend them. 😛

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I actually ended up making two pairs. I hadn’t bothered tying the string after making the initial circle of beads, thinking that would give adequate space for sticking the second layer of beads in between the beads of the first layer. Instead, I figured I would just pull the tail tightly. It worked when I did the same design using size 11 Preciosa (Czech) seed beads, but those are smaller than size 11 Toho seed beads. The inner layers ended up getting loose, and pulling the tail only helped tighten the two centermost layers. The exposed string didn’t look good. It wasn’t that obvious from far away, but I didn’t feel comfortable giving those to someone, so I kept those for myself and was more careful when making the second pair.

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Side by side comparison of the one with exposed threads (left) and the one that was made nice and tight (right). The threads/gaps are not as obvious in the photos than in person, but you can click for a larger image and look closely from the 3 o’clock position to 6 o’clock.

I hope I can take the general idea and come up with my own design, as I have thought of linking several of these motifs to make a necklace.

Modified Caterpillar Bracelet

Last December I found a pattern for a Beaded Elastic Caterpillar Bracelet on 3dbeading.com that I wanted to try. A few months later I couldn’t find the site again, but was able to find the Wayback Machine archive of it. The embellishments over the larger beads reminded me of the Hugs and Kisses Beaded Bracelet by Beadifulnights on YouTube.

Since I didn’t have all the beads that the pattern called for, I needed to modify the design so that it would work with the beads that I have. When I first saw the bracelet, I immediately knew I wanted to use the 8mm blue fiber optic (a.k.a. cat’s eye) beads that I had. I feel strange about using plastic pearls with glass beads—I definitely wouldn’t combine them with Swarovski crystal—but how else could you get consistently shaped 2mm or 3mm pearls? Since I was modifying the pattern, I did a short test segment to see if the beads would fit together snugly. To my surprise, the plastic pearls actually looked quite nice when strung in the design.

P1120502cqSince I didn’t want to use plastic pearls at first, I thought I didn’t have any 3mm round beads in a color that would match the rest of the bracelet. I found some 3mm clear fire-polished beads that someone had given me years ago. I tested them to see where they would fit best. That’s why instead of having two 3mm pearls along the edges between the 8mm beads, I have a 3mm fire-polished bead flanked by two size 11 seed beads.

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I was concerned that the lack of additional colors would make the bracelet look boring, but I’d say it’s elegant.

I tested other bead combinations, too. I wanted to see if a 4mm bicone crystal would work. That way, there’ll be some of the aqua color that I love. Unfortunately, the size and shape made it not fit right. I’m sure I could have eventually gotten it to work with different sized beads, but didn’t feel like experimenting more.

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When using 4mm bicones, the “hugs and kisses” didn’t fit snugly against the 8mm beads. Notice the gaps.

The original pattern called for elastic, but I don’t like using elastic cord for two reasons. One is it’s hard to tie small knots that will stay put. The material is slippery and the knots will come undone on their own. Although a surgeon’s knot will stay together, it’s bigger and bulkier than I would like for this bracelet. The second reason is that over time, elastic cord will weaken and break. Instead, I used transite thread because it’s clear. (From what I’ve read, transite a.k.a. monofilament, will eventually weaken and break over time as well, but not as quickly as elastic.) I preferred to assemble the bracelet by going back and forth along the whole length of it three times, like the method shown in Beadifulnight’s video.

Since I was foregoing the elastic, I would need to use a clasp and was left on my own to figure out how to make a loop to attach the clasp to. At first, I didn’t want to put a fake pearl in the loop because I was concerned the finish would chip off over time—the clasp area is subject to a lot of wear, with jump rings constantly moving around. However, I discovered that having a size 11 seed bead instead of a 2mm pearl made the six other beads not fit well along the 8mm bead at the end, so I had to take it apart and start over.

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Not only was the spacing too tight but the loop liked to fold backwards, so I had to redo it with a larger bead.

I originally used a toggle clasp since I thought it looked nicer with this style of bracelet, but that made it a bit challenging to put on and take off, so I replaced it with a magnetic clasp. I’ve noticed the rest of the bracelet weighs more than the clasp, so it likes to rotate so that the clasp faces up while I’m wearing it. It’s not a big deal to me, but I don’t know if other people will care.

P1120496abcqIt took me about five hours in all to complete this, not including the time spent testing possible beads. I think I could get my next one done in two hours if everything goes smoothly. One disadvantage of assembling it the whole length across as opposed to in repeating units is that it’ll take more work to modify the sizing. Adding the 2mm pearl in between the beads along the edges made the bracelet longer than it had been right after I added the last 8mm bead, so I had to go back and remove it. (I know some people wouldn’t care, but I’m sick of wearing bracelets that end up halfway up my forearm and threaten to slip off my hand.) I probably spent a whole hour tying knots because I had a hard time getting the thread to fit a third time through the beads. If I were to ever make this again, I would use FireLine because it’s thinner than 8lb transite.

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Here’s how it looks on my 6 inch wrist. Not so good against my swim tan. (No, I am not skinny. I just have small wrists and bony hands. My thighs are a different story…. 😛 )

I wrote more this time, including a few of the challenges that I faced throughout this project, in hopes that people who don’t make jewelry will get a better understanding of the process (and quit telling me “it doesn’t have to be perfect”).

Wired rings that I made

A couple of weeks ago, I took a class on how to make wired rings. I finally got around to finishing them now. We learned how to make six styles in all. Everyone got the same kinds and colors of beads to use, which explains why some of them are not what I would choose, but we brought our own wire.

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The numbers indicate the order in which they were made.

These rings are made by wrapping wire around a mandrel. We first needed to find our ring size for the fingers we wanted to wear the rings on. I prefer to wear rings on my index fingers, so I made my rings accordingly. Unfortunately, it’s easy for the wire to slip on the mandrel from one size to another, or for the coil to loosen after removing it from the mandrel, as many of my classmates experienced. I was lucky that most of my rings ended up the correct size or close enough. For all of them except #6, we were taught to wrap the wire one size larger than the desired size. For #6, it was half a size larger. This is necessary because wrapping the wires around the shank (to secure the ends and keep the ring together) will make the ring smaller.

My first ring was kind of messed up but it was still wearable. The second one turned out nice, but I think the third one (with the button bead made from bone) turned out the best out of all the ones I made that day. It was actually the easiest one to make.

My “rose” ring (#4) ended up much larger than I intended because I accidentally unhooked the connection between the two ends of the wire. (I was aiming to make it a 6.5, but it ended up a size 10.) I didn’t feel like picking at the coils to make them look more like rose petals out of fear of destroying the whole thing. It’s green because I didn’t want to use my silver wire for it and the only other 20 gauge wire that I had with me that day was green. It was the design I was least interested in, but it might look lovely in pink if I ever buy pink wire.

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I hope to redo the one with the three crystals, since it was done a bit messy. I think I will use a different silver plated wire that is dead soft copper instead of half hard, so it’ll be easier to work with.

The last ring we made was the one with dangles. At first I wasn’t too enthusiastic about it, but after finishing it, I like what I got. We ran out of time to complete that one in class, so I finished making the dangles on my own. Everyone’s designs probably turned out different. I was afraid of accidentally cracking the crystals while making a wrapped loop, so I made simple loops when crystals were right under the loop. But to have balance (3 simple loops, 3 wrapped loops), I hesitantly made a wrapped loop for the last crystal I added. I also was concerned that simple loops might get pulled open too easily and I would lose the crystals (even though this is 20 gauge medium temper wire). I didn’t want to only make coils at the bottom of all of them, so I tried (for the first time) the design with the three loops, which I had seen in a book. Once again, there were 3 coils and 3 of those loopy things, for balance.

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I am happy with the result.

We were told to file the edges of the wire where it was cut, so it wouldn’t be sharp and cut the wearer. Yesterday I finally got around to filing them, but after filing two of them, I decided I didn’t want to file the rest. It felt as though the filing made the surface rough when it originally was smooth. (I used a flush cutter, so it’s not like the wire is pointed.) It also took off the silver coating and exposed the copper underneath, which is unsightly.