Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Knot-a-Bead - A Cool Tool to Add to your Jewellery Making

Earlier this year I saw Beadalon's cool new Knot-a-Bead tool in action at CHA. It made quick work of knotting strands of beads and the demonstrator made it look SO EASY. But if you've ever watched a product demo at a craft show, you'll know that it looked much easier when the demonstrator did it than when you tried to do it at home. But I'm happy to say that this is NOT one of those occasions.... this tool is every bit as easy to use as it looks and I'm pretty impressed with how well it works. It's definitely a tool worthy of adding to my collection!

So let's take a look at the knotting process.

I'm working with silk thread which comes with a needle already attached. It even has a knotted end (so it won't fray) so I've just threaded on a calotte (from the inside of the hole).

Next, string your beading pattern onto the thread. I like to place a bead stopper on the thread to keep the beads from slipping off the needle again. Slide the first bead down to the calotte and place the calotte and bead over the metal spindle.

Pick up the bead in your right hand and tie an overhand knot around the thread in your left hand

Pull the knot up so that the bead sits next to the spindle

Then pull the thread UPWARDS. This makes sure that the knot is right up alongside the bead. This next bit is important.... push the bead over the spindle, towards the back of the tool so that the thread is in front.

Now slide the bead to the right of the spindle and place the thread through the hook. You'll need to do this with your right hand but I'm doing it with my left hand because I'm holding the camera with my right. With your left hand, slide the button to the left whilst pulling the cord with your right hand. I found that I could work the knot right up to the bead by doing this slowly.

Keep sliding the beads along the thread, and knotting them one at a time until all the beads are knotted. To finish off a strand, string on another calotte (from the outside of the hole) and create the knot as before.

To secure the knots so they won't unravel, place a dab of GS-Hypo Cement or nail polish on the knot. When it's dry, trim away the excess thread and close the calotte over the knot.

This is such an easy way to string a necklace and a great alternative to using eye pins to connect components together. But sometimes, you get it wrong and forget to place a knot in the right place..... oops!

It's easy to fix if you notice it straight away. Use a needle tool to loosen the knot, undo it and then continue on your way. As long as your design doesn't have lengths of unbeaded cord in between your beading pattern, any kinks in the stringing material should be hidden.

I have to say, that the instructions that come with the tool are pretty clear once you understand them but if you can't make heads or tails of them, then check out Beadalon's YouTube video and watch the tool in action - all of a sudden, those written instructions will become crystal clear!

Happy knotting!

'Til next time........

Monday, September 29, 2014

Keeping the Dome Level in your Resin Earrings

If you've ever worked with chatons and epoxy clay in a stud earring bezel (or any bezel with a post/pin such as a brooch or a clutch pin), you'll know how difficult it is to keep them horizontal and level whilst they cure.

Here's a little trick you might find helpful: use the foam protector that comes in the chaton packaging.

After creating your sparkly earring, stand the foam upright and insert the earring post in the top.

 Place the foam in a medicine cup (or a shot glass) and fill with rice to stablise it.

Now your resin clay can cure without fear of becoming distorted! You can also try this trick with liquid epoxy resin but just set your earring posts into the foam before you begin pouring the resin - your earrings will have a perfectly level dome.

'Til next time.....

Monday, September 15, 2014

Golden Shadows Necklace Tutorial

Weddings are wonderful occasions to get dressed up but I think most of us are familiar with that "I don't have a thing to wear" feeling. On this occasion, it wasn't the dress that was causing me angst, it was the fact that I have a fabulous dress to wear but not a piece of jewellery to wear with it! It's times like these that I'm thankful for my jewellery-making skills!

So if you're looking for a statement necklace that's not completely over the top and yet still sparkles enough to catch the light, then perhaps this is the one for you. Read on for how to make your own..... in a colour to suit your own special outfit, of course!

Here's what you'll need:
  • Golden Shadow Swarovski crystals: 14 x 4mm, 10 x 6mm, 4 x 8mm, 1 x 22mm wing pendant
  • 14 x 25mm gold lined bugle beads
  • 28 gold ball head pins
  • 31 x 4mm gold jump rings
  • 1 x 6mm gold jump ring
  • fine gold necklace chain
  • 40cm (16") gold cable chain (or to your preferred length)
  • gold box clasp
  • Chain nose pliers
  • Round nose pliers
  • Flat nose pliers
  • Wire cutters
String a 4mm bicone on each of four head pins and turn a 90° angle. Tip: Using flat nose pliers allows you to bend the head pin closer to the top of the crystal but you need to take care that you don't chip the top of the bead. Repeat with six 6mm bicones and four 8mm bicones.

Trim each head pin to 8 or 9mm (5/16").

Turn a small loop with the round nosed pliers on each one.

On ten of the remaining head pins, string a 4mm bicone and a bugle bead. Use the flat nose pliers to bend the head pin right above the bugle bead taking care not to chip it.

Trim the tail of each head pin 8 or 9mm (5/16").....

.....and turn a loop.

Repeat with the four remaining 6mm crystals and bugle beads. The components should look like this when completed.

Attach a 55mm (2 1/8") length of chain to the wing pendant with a 6mm jump ring and attach it to the centre link of the cable chain with a 4mm jump ring.

Attach chain to each of the bicones as follows: Cut four 60mm (2 3/8") lengths of fine necklace chain and attach one to each of the four 8mm bugle bead components. Cut six 55mm (2 1/8") lengths of chain and attach one to the eye loop of each of the 6mm beaded head pins. Cut four 53mm (2 1/8") lengths of chain and attach to the four 4mm bicones. Put half of each set of chains aside.

Working on the right side of the necklace and beginning with the 8mm crystals, use a jump ring to attach one crystal chain per link to the right of the wing pendant. Next, attach the 6mm crystal chains and finally, the 4mm crystal chains.
Note: The photo below is for demonstration purposes and shows the crystal chain being attached to a random link.

Attach the remaining crystal chains to the left hand side of the wing pendant graduating in size from the largest bicone to the smallest bicone.

Put half of the bugle bead components aside. Open a 4mm jump ring and attach it to the loop of a 6mm bugle bead components. Working on the right hand side of the necklace, hook the jump ring on the same link of the cable chain as the wing pendant. Note: All chains should be placed on the right hand side of the crystal chain components.

Attach a second 6mm bugle bead component to the right hand side (and on the same link of the cable chain) of the first 8mm crystal chain. Continue adding the 4mm bugle bead components in the same way to the remaining links. Note: The last crystal chain on the right hand side of the necklace will not have a bugle bead to the right of it and will be on a link on its own. 

Complete the left hand side of the necklace to match.  

Use 4mm jump rings to attach the one half of the box clasp to each end of the cable chain.

And now you're set to sparkle the evening away with your own elegantly sophisticated Swarovski necklace.

Of course, a statement necklace is a lovely focal to set of your dress but a pair of earrings will be the perfect finishing touch for your ensemble. Look out for the tutorial to make a pair of matching earrings..... coming soon.!

'Til next time........

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Setting Swarovski Crystals Part 2 - Glueing

With wedding jewellery still my focus this week, I'm going to show you the second method I've used to include Swarovski crystals in these special pieces - using adhesive.

I'm using chatons (sometimes known as pointy backs and V crystals) in a brass cup setting or brass stamping. The chatons have a foil backing which enhances the crystal's cut to create its reflective sparkle. When selecting an adhesive, you need to keep this in mind and choose one that will not affect the foil. For a special piece like the ones I'm working on that need to last a lifetime, I've chosen a 2 part epoxy adhesive. In this instance I'm using Swarovski's own CG 500-35 because it has more working time than regular 5-minute epoxy. The extra time will mean I only need to mix one batch of epoxy but the drawback is that it will take longer to grip. But one of the major benefits of using Swarovski's own 2-part epoxy is it's ability to absorb shocks by up to 500% compared with just 10% for regular 2-part epoxies. That is a huge benefit when creating keepsake jewellery!

The epoxy comes in two tubes, one for each part - A and B.

When you remove the caps from the two tubes, you'll notice that there is a foil seal and that the caps have a piercing spike.

Use this to pierce the foil. You can see it's left some on the spike so wipe it all away with a tissue. Oh, and don't forget to wear gloves whenever you're working with epoxy so it doesn't come into contact with your skin. Remember, epoxy is a resin and resin isn't good for your skin.

Squeeze out equal amounts of both parts onto a disposable plastic surface. I'm using the lid from an ice cream container - a takeaway container lid will be perfect too.

Mix the two parts together thoroughly with a wooden stir stick.

The component I'm using has very small cups so I'm coating the inside of each cavity with the epoxy using a toothpick. You need to apply it thickly enough so the crystal will be surrounded by epoxy, yet thinly enough that it doesn't ooze out. Keep some acetone and a cotton bud (Q-tip) handy to wipe away any excess if you do get a bit heavy handed.

Once again, I've resorted to my trusty Embellie Gellie tool to pick up the crystals. This tool is indispensable when positioning the crystals in the prepared cups. Take your time to carefully place the crystals in the cavities and press each one down after it's positioned to make sure it's sitting level in the cup.

Set the piece aside to cure. This will take a full 24 hours. If you try to work with the component before this time you risk moving the crystals or worse still, loosening or even losing one so be patient with it. If this does happen, all is not lost. You can still use 5-minute epoxy to reset/replace the loose crystal and continue working.

Some other adhesives you can consider when gluing crystals in cup settings are: E6000 and GS-Hypo Cement. These don't require any mixing but in my experience they don't have the permanent adhesion for this type of application. Avoid crazy glues and super glues which can affect the foil backing over time and lead to a dull and marred crystal.

This is such an easy technique and it will allow you to tailor your handmade jewellery to suit whatever colour theme your special occasion requires. Build up your own unique design by layering two or three of these in different shapes and sizes to create stunning, focal elements.... you will look a million dollars!

'Til next time.....

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Tips for Setting Swarovski Crystals Part 1 - Claw Settings

One of the wonderful things about creating wedding jewellery is that lots of sparkle is good. I'm working on some gorgeous wedding jewellery at the moment using Swarovski crystals. Apart from regular stringing techniques, I've also included some crystals which are placed in settings.

There are a couple of different methods I use and they depend on the type of setting I'm using. Today it's the claw setting (sometimes known as a tiffany setting). These settings have a deep well inside to accommodate the pointy back of the crystal and a number of claws which wrap over the top of the crystal. You use your pliers to press the claw against the surface of the crystal to hold it in place.

That sounds really easy, right? Well yes.... and no! Crystals can be fiddly to set - they have a habit of flipping upside down or not sitting properly level in the setting so here's a couple of tips I use when I'm setting them.

Firstly, getting the crystal into the setting. If your fingers are nimble (and you have perfect eyesight!) you may be able to line them up without any aids at all but you can make much faster work of it by using a tool like Embellie Gellie. Just place a small ball on the end of the stick and work it around the tip so it stays put. Now you can pick up the crystal and position it accurately in the setting so that it's centred and level.

To make sure that it stays that way, flatten the first claw. I've started on the bottom left but it doesn't matter which one you start with.

Then flatten the claw which is diagonally opposite the first one you flattened. Make sure the crystal is still sitting level in the setting before doing this.

Now the crystal is level, you can flatten the two remaining claws.

Make sure you flatten the claws against the crystal really well because there's nothing worse than having a claw catch on your clothing.

I really love the look of claw settings - it takes your jewellery-making up a notch and makes your handmade jewellery look more like fine jewellery than costume jewellery so it's perfect for weddings and special occasions.

Next time, I'll be sharing the second method I use to secure pointy back crystals - adhesives.

'Til then....

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I'm a Cover Girl! Friendly Plastic Twist Bead Necklace

I am a cover girl..... How exciting is that!

The newest magazine from Scott Publications in the "Just" series, Just Jewelry (Vol 1), is full of beautiful jewellery projects featuring some really on-trend materials including metal, leather and Friendly Plastic. You'll find both regular jewellery and Wearable Art jewellery in this issue and that's where my project fits in. On the front cover is my Friendly Plastic Twist Bead Necklace - a simple technique that will have you making your own designer art beads with just a few simple tools.

It's available now at the newsstand and at craft stores across the US. Or if you're an international like me, you can order directly from Scott Publications.

'Til next time....

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How to Make a French Pâtisserie Canopy

The French theme continues on my blog today as I show you how to make a canopy for a quaint little shop front. I created a faux pâtisserie for my sister's birthday and this was just the finishing touch to set it off.

I started out with two black tri-fold foam core display boards - the type used for science fair projects. It would be just as easy to start with white core board and then you could colour it any colour you want but black and white worked perfectly for my theme.

To create the scalloop, tape a bunch of papers together to form a piece of paper the same length as the width of the core board. Fold the paper in halves, quarters and then eighths. Draw a scallop and then cut it out. With the board still in the flat position (sides folded in), place the pattern along one of the folded edges and trace around the scalloped edge. I used a white pen so I could see where to cut.

The easiest way to cut foam core board is with a Stanley knife.

Run the blade along the scallops in several passes until you have cut right through to the other side. 

Now you need to mask off the areas you want to keep black (or white if you're using white core board). Use low tack painter's tape to secure strips of paper along every other scallop, making sure that you're painting the outside and not the inside. Also mask off the other end flap (not shown in this photo). After doing the first canopy, I realised that it would be much easier to secure to the wall if the end was not painted!

I tested a couple of spray paints and ended up using a spot marking paint that adhered to the board well. Not all paints adhere to the core board so spray a test patch on your scallop offcut first. When you are happy with the paint, spray the stripes in long sweeping motions aiming for even, but light, coverage. Let the paint dry before continuing.

You will have to do at least two coats and maybe even a third one if you're spraying white onto black!

Once the paint is completely dry you can carefully remove the strips of paper to reveal your striped canopy.

Looking pretty good! I needed two canopies for the double doors I had to cover but even a single one would look great above a regular doorway.

So that the canopy sits out from the wall you need to add some sort of wedge between the unpainted back flap and the canopy. I used some polystyrene that was used as packaging - it's lightweight and can be painted black with acrylic paint to blend into the foam core board. You'll need to cut it into wedges with a 60° angle. It's tricky but if you use long blade like a polymer clay blade it should help. Then apply an adhesive which is suitable for foam....

.... and glue the wedges in place.

Get some extra hands to help mount it on the wall. We used 3M Command velcro strips so that we could remove it without leaving any marks.

With the first half of the canopy up, we held our breath to see if it would stay in place!

And it did! So the boys got the second half of the canopy up in no time.

And here's the window, dressed as a French Pâtisserie. The canopy really brings the whole theme together.

Now that the stage is set, it was time to have some fun!

'Til next time.....


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