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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Desert sunset candle holder

Many years ago I saw some beautiful votive candle holders in a store. I didn’t have the money to buy one at the time, and I didn’t have a camera to take a picture of them, either. There were two varieties: a desert sunrise and a desert sunset. The sunrise had a fiery pink sky that transitioned to a gradient of warm colors behind the silhouettes of saguaro cacti. The sunset also had a gradient of warm colors along the horizon that served as a backdrop for saguaro, but the rest of the vast sky was a deep purple, scattered sparsely with stars and a crescent moon high above. I fell in love with both of them immediately, but was drawn to the sunset one more. Even after fifteen years I still haven’t forgotten them.

Although the candle holders were made out of glass, I figured I could try to create my own out of clay. Sure, they probably won’t glow the same way when there’s a flame inside, but this would be the closest that I can get to having a desert sunset candle holder. (My efforts to find one online were fruitless.)

I took the desert sunset idea but decided to make the scene my own. I found some photos of desert sunsets, and used them as a guide. I took liberties with the terrain and plants, and the spacing of the colors of the sky. Those were all painted on in underglaze.

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Somehow the purple underglaze ended up looking more blue after firing.

I made sure to carve a crescent moon in the sky for light to shine through. I thought of punching holes for stars, but was concerned the small holes would get plugged with glaze and light won’t go through (as I’ve learned the hard way), so I didn’t do that. Instead, I carved out cacti. At the time, I thought it would be weird to see a glowing cactus, but assumed it would look like any other silhouette when dark. Now I wish I hadn’t done that, as a glowing cactus does look strange.

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A fiery ghost?

Aside from making a bad call regarding glowing cacti, my major disappointment is that the clear glaze was too thick, giving the whole thing a clouded look.

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This is how it looks when I didn’t increase the saturation of the colors in this photo.

At the time, I thought the glaze in the bucket was too thick. My first attempt dipping the piece had to be washed off. I even had the instructor add water to the glaze. If I remember correctly, he even watered down a portion for me, but I thought it was too thin and poured it back in with the rest of the bucket, and glazed my piece using that. Had I used my brush-on clear glaze, this could have been avoided, and the colors would be bright. There isn’t anything I can do now to fix it. Making another one isn’t currently an option as I have decided to take an indefinite break from ceramics. Oh well, stuff like this happens, and I’ve learned from it.

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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”).

Dotted luminary

Back in December of last year when I was in my luminary phase, I did a Google image search for “ceramic luminaries.” I came across several that had designs made from carving dots, and decided to make my own.

I’m not as creative as many of the artists out there (look at this one—it’s beautiful), so I stuck with simple shapes. I used a needle tool to make the holes.

DSCF9252qDSCF9253qEach edge is about 2¾ inches long. I had made each face 3 in2 but the clay shrinks and it’s not easy to cut the slabs without having it warp in the process. That’s why the edges along the top are not even—it’s handmade. (That said, there are methods to keep the slabs even, one of which is waiting for the clay to dry a little so it holds its shape better.)

DSCF9254qDSCF9255qAfter the glaze firing, I was disappointed with the result, so I wasn’t even planning to post this project. The reason I decided to write about it was to show where I made a mistake, and what I have learned to do differently afterward.

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The only holes that let light through.

In all of the photos in this post, there was an LED candle inside. As you can see, many of the holes are blocked with glaze, so not much light can shine through. I hadn’t taken into account how much the clay would shrink. (I used B-mix with grog, which has a 12% shrinkage, if I remember correctly.) After the bisque firing, I noticed how much smaller the small holes had become. When glazing it, I don’t remember if I tried to clear the glaze from all the holes, but I wasn’t able to poke it out of the smallest holes. When the glaze melted during firing, it flowed into and clogged up the holes.

Although I did not make another luminary in this style, I have been careful to make larger holes and clear out the glaze from small openings in my other luminaries. After July, I decided to take an indefinite break from ceramics, but I will continue to share pictures of my projects from the past six months in posts to come.

Experimenting with Viking Knit

I didn’t become interested in viking knit until I started the woven wire bezels class. After the instructor mentioned that she hangs her pendants from viking knit chains, I decided I needed to learn how to make it.

There are a bunch of free viking knit tutorials online. I found this video by JewelrySupply.com to be very informative, as she goes through all the steps. However, the setup was more complicated than necessary. I didn’t need most of that stuff. Instead, I used a never-sharpened pencil, and held it in my left hand, along with the weaving, as I worked. I’ve also used the end of a crochet hook, as they come in different diameters.

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Single viking knit woven on the end of a 5 mm crochet hook. This one was made with 28 gauge wire. It’s easy to get poked by the ends of the wire, so I wrap my fingers with medical tape when I do this.

I had a whole spool of 24 gauge wire that I never used, and was glad to finally make use of it.

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Viking knit necklace. Even though the colors look different, the 24 and 20 gauge wires are both Artistic Wire in Peacock Blue.

I don’t own a draw plate, because I read reviews of both wooden and plastic draw plates that said that the coating on the wire will come off. I simply stretched my weave with my hands. (I would recommend wearing gloves or wrapping your fingers with medical tape when doing that.) I know that the result doesn’t look as even as it would have, had I used a draw plate, but I didn’t want to risk scraping the color off the wire. If you’re reading this and have used a draw plate with colored wire, such as Artistic Wire, please let me know what kind of draw plate you were using and if the color on the wire came off.

I made my own end caps using this method found on gailnettles.com.

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After I completed this necklace, I looked online for more ways to finish Viking knit. I came across this necklace that inspired me to use multiple colors. (It looks like it was double or even triple knit.) As a test, I made this bracelet from different colored pieces of 26 gauge wire. For fun, I decided to make the end caps different colored as well.

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I love colorful things!

I am currently working on a project in which I am using thinner wires to create a chain. It’s extremely time consuming. More on that some other day.

Recently I learned about SilverSilk, which is a machine-woven wire chain. It looks so similar to viking knit and the price is reasonable that it made me wonder why am I’m even spending time weaving wire? It would take me 3 hours to produce a length that I could buy for $3. I decided to order some, to see how well it’ll work for the pendants. So far, my impression is favorable; it’s flexible, won’t stretch, and can hold the weight of the pendant. I’d much rather use it than weave my own chain. I suppose I’d only weave my own chain if it’s required to be handmade.

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My pendant with the woven wire bezel on a 3mm SilverSilk chain.

Exploring macrame jewelry

A few months ago I started venturing into the world of micro macramé. I was looking for a portable craft to do at sporting events during timeouts, and someone mentioned macramé in a comment. Curious as to what macramé is, I Googled it, and came across this helpful site. As I was looking at the various knot tutorials, I was surprised to learn that some of the crafts that I have done in the past, such as hemp bracelets, friendship bracelets and lanyards, actually utilized macramé knots. So I had been doing micro macramé for years without even realizing it was macramé! Since I’ve never anchored the ends of the strings down or used pins, I am able to take my projects with me wherever I go. (This was because I had to quickly hide my friendship bracelet activity from my mom, or else she’ll scold me for wasting time.) I simply fold up the strings and they don’t get tangled. (Even if they did, I’m really good at untangling, so it’s not a problem for me.)

I don’t have any interest in making large projects, such as pot hangers. Instead, I’ve been studying how to use macramé to make jewelry. The site MacrameSchool.com has clear and concise video tutorials for many styles of macramé jewelry. She goes quite quickly, though, so I needed to pause and replay many times.

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My first attempt at the Double Wave Bracelet, using Chinese knotting cord.

Since I already have a spool of hemp cord from many years ago, I’ve been using it to make jewelry. However, I’m wondering if hemp looks cheap. After all, it is a natural fiber, so it is biodegradable and probably won’t last as long as something made out of metal. Also, it’s associated with hippies. (I don’t have a problem with hippies, but some people do.) I think hemp doesn’t look so bad when it’s used with beads or even metal findings. I have seen some dyed hemp that looks nice.

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Modified “fish bone” knot bracelet using hemp cord and glass beads.

I am thinking of getting some waxed cotton or polyester cord since it might look a little classier than hemp. At least it won’t feel as rough or scratchy. I am thinking of buying cord online, but sellers carry either a wide assortment of colors in shorter lengths, or fewer colors in 100 meter spools. Perhaps I should first take a look at waxed cotton and polyester cords in a store before buying larger quantities online since I have not used them before.

Things have changed since I had written a draft of this post last November, so this is the update. I bought a pack of five colors of cotton braiding cord. After trying the cotton cord, I like it better than hemp. It looks nice and clean, and feels smooth. The knots also stay in place and don’t slide. My only concern is how durable the cotton is, since it is a natural fiber. I might try polyester or nylon if I come across it.

Bracelet made from waxed cotton cord & size 8/0 seed beads

Bracelet made from waxed cotton cord. The knots stay in place on their own. I used beads primarily to keep the spacing even.

I’ve also experimented with Chinese knotting cord and like it. The knots hold pretty well, and if I have to undo my work for any reason, the kinks will straighten out on their own. Since the cord is synthetic material, the ends can be melted with the heat of a flame, to prevent fraying.

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These were made during flights across the country. 🙂

Seeing some of the designs on this site has renewed my interest in friendship bracelets. Until now, the last time I intentionally made one was probably when I was in 8th grade. I still had a lot of embroidery floss at my parents’ house, so I retrieved it  the last time I visited. I watched some of the video tutorials on that site, and seeing how the patterns are done might lead me to develop my own designs once I understand how it works. friendship bracelets (In my opinion, the friendship bracelet loom-thing is unnecessary, unless you have a problem with your strings getting tangled. I find that going by absolute references for each string will make the learner dependent on following the instructions step-by-step. Instead, I prefer using the colors and relative positions of the strings as references. When I think of it that way, it’s easier to understand the procedure and I can pick it up faster. Perhaps absolute references are necessary when giving instructions.)

In your opinion, does hemp look cheap? Is there a type of cord that you prefer for your jewelry?

Tiny Tree of Life Pendants

A couple of nights ago I was lying in bed when I thought I should attempt to make a tiny Tree of Life pendant (more like a charm). It actually wasn’t my idea; I had read about a challenge to make a wire wrapped Tree of Life that’s smaller than a nickel.

Yesterday evening I gave it a try, and here’s the result.

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The nickel is in there for scale. My use of purple seed beads would make these resemble flowering Jacaranda mimosifolia.

I struggled at first with making the frame, because I thought a wrapped loop would look disproportionately large on a small ring. That’s why I did the three loops, and secured the ends of the ring when wrapping the tree branch. Then I discovered the three loops are practically impossible to replicate exactly. (It’s possible that I just need a lot more practice, or maybe it can be done using a jig.) At first I thought I would use these charms for earrings, since they’re small and light, but then decided against it. When it comes to earrings, I prefer that the frames be close to identical. I don’t mind if the trees aren’t identical, because it’s even more difficult to make identical trees than it is to make identical frames. (But if people actually want mismatched earrings that don’t look deliberately mismatched—like the outer two in the photo above—then I’ll make them.)

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Although the trees aren’t identical, the size and style of the frames are similar enough for me to use them for earrings.

The tree part was actually fairly easy and enjoyable to make. I used 26 gauge wire for it, so it’s easy to bend. It takes me about half an hour to make one piece from start to finish, so I am seriously considering selling these. Because they are so small, there’s no room for complicated details, so the design remains simple, and I like that.

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The smallest one has a 1.4 cm diameter, and the larger one has a 1.6 cm diameter.

I made the ring by wrapping the 18 gauge wire around a ring mandrel. I started out at size 5. Making the tree was easier than I thought it would be. Then I decided to try size 2. Once again, no problem. To challenge myself more, I tried size 1. (After wrapping the loop, the ring got smaller so that it no longer fit on the mandrel.) That one actually was challenging, and it took the longest to make. I’m satisfied that the whole piece fits on a nickel. I don’t plan to make another one like that any time soon.

DSCF7437qThe next morning, I couldn’t wait to try to make more, with wrapped loops, so they could be used for earrings. My fingers were still sore from the night before, so I didn’t have as good control of the wire as I would have liked. It took three attempts before I had two frames that were close enough in size, but during the process I scraped the silver plating off the wire on one of them. However, it’s not noticeable after I wrapped the 26 gauge wire on.

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Clip-on earrings, because I don’t have pierced ears, but I have ear hooks for those who do. This one has a 1.6 cm diameter.