The strange and wonderful life of a self-confessed bead addict (and speech and language therapist)

09 April 2012

Get Hooked!

OK, so here goes: my very first tutorial! It’s taken a whole week to put together, so I hope it all makes sense. I’m (hopefully) going to show you how to create a multi-stranded crocheted wire necklace. Here we go...

You will need:

· A crochet hook. Any size will do – the bigger the hook, the bigger the loops that you will make in your necklace. For the one I’m going to show you, I’ve used a 3.5mm hook. But it’s entirely up to you!
· Wire cutters
· Long- or bent-nosed pliers
· Round-nosed pliers
· Coloured jewellery wire - here I’ve used .315mm wire, but any size up to .4mm should be fine. Any thicker and the wire will become more difficult to manipulate.
· A selection of beads in colours to match your wire. I have chosen semiprecious turquoise chips, freshwater pearls, Chinese crystals and a selection of seed beads. You can use absolutely any beads you like – be creative! (You could even use buttons, washers or nuts if you wanted – anything with a hole in it will work).
· Two lengths of scrap .8mm wire – approximately 10-12cm each.
· Bead cones
· Jump rings
· A lobster-claw clasp.

Let’s get started!

Step 1:
Decide on the order you would like your beads to go in, and begin threading them onto your wire. I’ve chosen a uniform order for my beads, but these necklaces can look fab with the beads threaded randomly. Just be aware that, if you have different-sized beads, you need to distribute them evenly over the different strands of your necklace.

Tip: always thread more beads on the wire than you think you will need for a single strand: between 50 and 100 is a good amount. You won’t have to use all of the beads you have threaded on the strand you are working on, but you won’t be able to add any more beads if you run out.

Step 2:
Tie a knot in the end of your wire, leaving a tail of approximately 5-10cm. With normal crochet, you would use a slipknot, but with wire this does not matter so much. Slip the loop formed by the knot over the neck of your crochet hook.

Step 3:
Hold the short tail in your left hand and, using your right hand, wrap the working end of the wire once around the crochet hook, clockwise above the loop formed by the knot.

Note: I am right-handed, so these instructions are written with a right-handed person in mind. If you are left-handed, you might find it more comfortable to do things the other way around. Having said that; I know some right-handers who find it more comfortable to crochet the ‘left-handed’ way. Once you’ve got the hang of the technique, you’ll be able to adjust the wire in your hands so that it feels right for you.

Step 4:
With your right hand, move the crochet hook downwards and use it to pull the ‘top’ loop of wire (made with the working end of the wire) through the original loop (the one you made by tying the knot). Keep holding onto the tail with your left hand as you do this.

As you pull the wire downwards and through, you will see that a second loop is formed. Congratulations; you have just created your first stitch!

Step 5:
Slide the new loop downwards on the neck of the crochet hook, and repeat steps 3 and 4 several times until you have a number of loops in a row. In crochet, this is known as chain stitch.

This part of your strand will form the back part of your necklace, where the clasp fastens behind your neck. Personally, I find it more comfortable to have no beads on this section, so I keep it ‘bare’. Whether or not you decide to do this is entirely up to you.

Tip: If you are going to bead a ‘bare’ section, don’t forget that you will need to have half of this on either side of your clasp at the back. Therefore, when you are beginning your strand here, you will need to stitch a ‘bare’ section that is half the length you require. You will stitch the other half when you are finishing off your strand.

Step 6:
When you are ready to start adding beads, slide the first bead on your working length up the wire and hold it in place to the left of your crochet hook, BEFORE you wrap the working length clockwise around the hook to create your next stitch.

Step 7:
Pull the wire through the previous loop as normal, holding the bead in place with your left hand. You will see that the bead becomes ‘trapped’ in the new stitch you just made.

Step 8:

Continue to create stitches and add beads, according to your chosen design. You will have determined the order of your beads earlier, when you threaded them onto your wire. Here, I have chosen to stitch two ‘bare’ loops in-between each loop with a bead on it. You can choose to do whatever you like with your design.

Step 9:
If/when you would like to add a ‘group’ of beads in a single stitch, you can do this the same way as when you add a single bead: simply slide the required number of beads down the wire, and hold them all in place next to your crochet hook, before creating the next stitch. Here, I have added my smaller-sized seed beads in groups of three.

Step 10:
Continue with your chosen design until your strand reaches the length you would like for your necklace. Don’t forget to stop using beads near the end, and stitch a
‘blank’ section that mirrors the one on the other end.
To finish off a strand, remove the crochet hook from the loop you just made and cut the working length with your wire cutters, leaving a tail of approximately 5-10cm. Thread the loose end through the loop you just made, and pull tight.

Note: Be very careful with your working length when you are removing the crochet hook. If you pull on the working length of wire before you have threaded it through the previous loop, this will cause your work to unravel.

Step 11:
Repeat steps 1-10 until you have as many strands as you like to complete your necklace. Here I have chosen to make a six-stranded necklace, but you can make however many you like.

Step 12:
To create a necklace with your crocheted strands, you will need to join them together neatly. To do this on one side, take one of your lengths of scrap .8mm wire. Form a small loop in the wire, approximately one-third of the way along its length, using your round-nosed pliers. Bend this loop at a right-angle, so that the ‘base’ of the loop sits neatly on top of the longer section of wire.

Step 13:
Take the one end from each of your crocheted strands and, holding the loose ends out of the way; thread them onto the loop you have made.

Step 14: Wrap the short end of the .8mm wire around the base of the loop once or twice, to secure the strands in place. Trim the .8mm wire.

Step 15:
Wrap the loose ends of your strands around the top of the ‘bare’ section once or twice, and then trim the ends.

Note: your wires will probably look quite messy at this stage. Don’t worry: the purpose of the bead cones is to hide these messy parts!

Step 16:
Thread the end of the .8mm wire through the bead cone, pulling the messy strand-ends inside.

Tip: If the wrapped strand ends are too big or bulky to fit inside your bead cone, you may want to spend some time with your flat-nosed pliers, ‘squashing’ them into shape!

Step 17:

Thread a bead or two onto the wire, and form another wrapped loop, as you did in stages 12 and 14.

Step 18:
Repeat steps 12-17 for the other end of your necklace.

Step 19: Using jump rings, attach your clasp. If you would like, you can also attach an extension chain to the other side – or you can make your own extension chain out of jump rings, as I have done here.

Congratulations – your necklace is finished!

I hope you’re happy with the way it looks.

Please feel free to contact me with any comments or questions about this tutorial – any feedback is greatly appreciated! If this is well received, I’ll be creating another tutorial for a matching twisted-wire bracelet.
Happy beading!

06 April 2012

Folksy (Bank Holiday) Friday!!

Hooray for bank holiday weekends! A whole four days to spend at home with my lovely man - just perfect!

Of course, it also means I'll finally get the time to catch up on some blogging, jewellery-making, decopatching, and adding new items to the Folksy store! Does anyone else find that modern life just gets in the way of all things crafty? Hmmm...think I'll file that one away for (yet another) article idea - perhaps one day I'll actually get around to writing it!!

Anyhoo, I promised AAAAGES ago to do a Folksy Friday post with monochrome items...and I've finally gotten around to it! Here are the lovelies that I've picked - in a typically jumbled fashion (that's just how we do things here). Check out the cheeky Easter reference with that gorge bunny cushion! Just click on each individual picture to be taken to the seller's store.

Not forgetting my own monochrome stash...I made this lot months ago, and now I’m finally getting around to listing it, amongst some other goodies – take a look....

For the rest of the day, I’ll be enlisting my long-suffering man to help me put together a tutorial for a crocheted wire necklace, like this one, made on the first day of my Devon holiday away. Day two saw the creation of a matching twisted this space!

25 March 2012

First Day in Devon (Saturday 3rd March 2012)

Howdy all!

This post is the first in a series chronicling my recent week in North Huish, Devon with my lovely mum, Crafty Gailie. The point of the holiday: do whatever we like for a whole week!

This also marks the beginning of a new blogging experiment for me: I’ll be attempting to follow up each post with a tutorial article for the techniques I’ve used to make the items for each day of the holiday. Bear with me: I’ve never done this before. I’ll be enlisting my mum and fiancĂ© to take photos of my hands while I explain the basics of each step. I’ll also be relying on you lot to tell me if the instructions are clear enough!! one. After about four hours of driving, broken up by a lovely ploughman’s lunch at the Eagle Tavern on the A303 near Buckland St. Mary, Somerset (well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area), we arrived in the idyllic setting of North Huish, Devon.

The cottage was stunning; pure bliss. We stayed in one of the gorgeous barn conversions run by Faith and John Scharenguivel of Coombe House. The views from the front and back were gorgeous, and we soon became of our new ‘friend’: a local (and very noisy) pheasant who circled the grounds daily. We named him Gil, and he very quickly became a regular source of amusement and affection for us.
So...after our arrival, and a quick(ish) trip to the nearest supermarket (7 miles away), we had a week’s worth of supplies to fill our cupboards and fridge (a sizeable wine box and bottle of gin were high on the list, as well as some frankly stunning locally made cheeses).

And so...the making did commence! This little lot represents our first evening of crafting: not bad for a few hours in the evening! A pair of decopatched coasters (now available on Folksy) and a wire-crocheted necklace for me, and a couple of gorgeous new-home cards for mum. We were already in heaven!
My first tutorial post (hopefully to be published some time next week), will go through the basics of crocheting with wire, and adding beads to each stitch as you go.

Wish me luck!! :)

24 March 2012

New Job, New Obstacles....oh, and a holiday and a publishing deal!! (sort of...)

Howdy all! It's been a while, and I STILL haven't done the touted monochrome 'Folksy Friday' post - or the article on buttons. Sorry about that. It's been a crazy five weeks (or is it six now??) I promise to get them done soon.

First things first: I LOVE my new job!!! It's amazing and wonderful, and I feel like a useful and valuable member of a team. Hurrah! Having said that, the learning curve is steeeeeeeep!!! Luckily, my new boss is supportive and approachable, and I have plenty of other lovely (and much more experienced) colleagues, who readily put up with my incessant questions.

So...what else has been going on? Well, I went on a wonderful crafting holiday to Devon with my lovely mum, Crafty Gailie. It was perfect - idyllic surroundings, and nothing to do but make jewellry (and cards, in her case). I even learned a couple of new techniques!

I won't blabber on about it too much, because I'm planning on writing a series of posts about each day of the holiday, and listing each of the makes on Folksy in tandem. Knowing me, it'll take a while - but the first installment should be up tomorrow. In the meantime, here's the proof that we were as industrious as I claim:

And and other news...

I'm about to have my first-ever magazine project published!! Yes, the lovelies at Bead Magazine have agreed to use a pair of my earrings as their Fast Fashion project for issue 39 (out sometime in June, I think). EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!! I'm so excited - and also hopeful that this will be the begiining of something more regular. Look out magazine publishers, I'm about to start bombarding you with my designs!!!


18 February 2012

Monochrome Madness: The black (and grey-ish) bag!!

Afternoon all – and happy Saturday!

It’s a pretty important one for me – I start a new job on Monday (eeek!); which will take me away from my home with my fiancĂ© in London for four nights a week. Not ideal, but with the job market being the way it is, I couldn’t really refuse the offer. C’est la vie.

I wonder how many others out there are being forced to accept jobs that are a less-than-practical distance from home? I’d love to hear any comments on this if anyone has something to offer.

But anyhow...I digress. I have spent the past couple of weeks beavering away at my latest ‘challenge bag. This time, it’s the turn of the black (and grey-ish) drawer!! Exciting, huh??
So, here’s what I had to work with – a tiny handful of beadies, really. I ended up feeling truly amazed at the amount of inspiration which came from this. Black really is the most versatile colour!

The first beads that caught my eye in this lot were the black-and-gold lampworked ones; big and chunky and mismatched. ‘What on Earth will I do with those?’, I pondered. ‘They don’t really go with anything except themselves!’ Cue this funky bookmark: The perfect way for each bead to show off its own unique beauty!

Lovely! The perfect accessory for all those gothic horror novels I’m partial to. Lovecraft, anyone?

So, what next? I had plenty of those black-and-silver glass shapes that were also pretty mismatched: a few of each shape. After pairing up a few, arranging and re-arranging them on a bead mat a few times, I was reminded of a watch face I’d bought on a whim a few months ago. I’ve never made a watch before, and inspiration had thus far eluded me. But I liked the black and silver lines on these beads, and it went well with the boundaries of the watch face. A few Lucite flowers, Czech fire-polished beads and glass pearls later, and I come up with this beauty:
Not bad for my first-ever dress watch! I was rather pleased; and by this point I had gotten the ‘cluster’ bug! I used to be rather obsessed with making charm bracelets, and I had enjoyed creating the chunky clusters of beads in between the black-and-silver beauties in this watch strap.

So, I abandoned the rest of the beads in the bag for a while and shifted my attention to the rest of the bag of Czech glass pearls. Two evenings later, this matching necklace, earring and ring set had materialised:

There! Now it was out of my system, and I could return my attentions once again back to the remaining contents of the challenge bag. I still had a number of the black-and-silver beads left; now more mismatched than ever. I added some of the black Czech glass moon beads from the bag, the rest of the packet of Czech pearls and a rather beautiful filigree heart charm, and a second pair of earrings and a gorgeous chunky bag charm were born!

I do love a bag charm!!

The rest of the black-and-silver beads now used up, I could now turn to the remaining few beads from the challenge bag: some silvered glass rounds and a solitary mother-of-pearl disc.

What to do, what to do??

After several long seconds of experimenting with the remaining beads in my hand, I concluded that the silvered rounds and m-o-p disc did not ‘go’ together. Something about them just didn’t sit right when they were side by side. I was going to have to make separate pieces with them.

I’ve been rather partial to crochet lately; particularly with wire. I love the entwined, tangled effect you get when you pull relatively stiff wire into little chains with a crochet hook. Some little black drop beads were all that were needed to accentuate the silvered beads in a funky, gothic-style choker. This one is my personal favourite from the challenge.

Now to tackle the solitary mother-of-pearl disc. A quick rummage in the drawer revealed a few more, which I paired up with some larger, white ones and some genuine freshwater pearls. Placed together on the bead mat, they looked...nice.

Hmmmm. ‘Nice’. Not really a word that screams ‘boundless creativity’, is it? The beads needed something else.
Cue my latest hobby: decopatch. The art of making slightly boring-looking things look slightly less boring by siticking things to them: namely bits of patterned paper. So, a few cut-out discs of decopatch paper and some glue later, my white m-o-p discs were decidedly less ‘nice’, and decidedly more creative-looking – on one side, at least (I decided not to completely deface the subtle, natural beauty of the mother-of-pearl by leaving one side blank. That way, you also get two looks in one necklace).
The results of the experiment also represented my first foray into the world of hand-tied organza bows – and I must say, I’m rather pleased with the effort!

So, there we have it. The little handful of black beads which turned out to be more inspirational than I’d ever hoped for! After making this last necklace, I had the decopatch bug again, and have started this rather quirky beads on this one, but it’s (sort of) monochrome, and was inspired by the results of the challenge, so I thought I’d include it here anyway.

All of these items will be added to the Folksy shop over the next few days. If you’d like any of them reserved for you, just drop me a line!

In the meantime, I’m also collecting suggestions for monochrome items for a ‘Folksy Friday’ blog post this coming Friday. If you’re a Folksy seller and you’d like a mention, send me a link to your product, and consider it included!
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