Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Beadwork Pause for Harvest frenzy

I'm working up a bunch of plums and apples I bought from a co-worker who has a little orchard in Mora, about 20 miles away. I've been happily pitting and halving the batch of prune plums I bought, as well as making some stewed plums and freezing a few batches (I had a batch drying on a cookie sheet on the porch, covered with a muslin cloth, and my dog at half of them!). Then there's the big box of apples to deal with. Yesterday I peeled and cooked up some nice rustic applesauce, and froze four quarts, and that's just about a third of the apples I bought, so I'll be working the rest up in the next week or so. It's back to work tomorrow and off to Socorro on Saturday to spend the afternoon with my son who turns 25 on Sunday. We're planning to go out to the Bosque del Apache and gawk at the birds, then share a pizza and dessert. There's nothing like fall in New Mexico! The smell of roasting chiles in the air, cool mornings and warm afternoons, it's the best time of year!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

How to Make a Funky Halloween Charm Bracelet

If you're into beads at all, you probably have a fairly large jar or box or gasp! boxes of beads you've bought that you haven't found a use for yet. I'm guilty of this and have started using my stashes of interesting beads for things like cell phone charms, charms that people like to dangle from their ID badges, or key rings, and charm bracelets. If you've got sterling silver or plated chain, you have a head start, but I don't always have chain on hand, so I occasionally make myself a bracelet from jumprings, preferably sterling, but plated will do too. The simplest bracelet is just a string of jumprings, but I often make a strand of doubled jumprings (just attatch two jumprings to two others and make a long strand in the same manner). But for this project, I just went with the one ring strand of sterling jumprings type bracelet.

Jumprings can be frustrating. You think they're well and truly 'closed' and they pop open at the most inopportune times. The purist might decide to solder them closed after making the bracelet, and I've just invested in a mini torch and plan to try just that, but for today, my bracelet is hanging together nicely with just manual closure of the jumprings. Try to close the rings so you feel the 'click' as the two ends pass across each other when closing.

Once you have the length of homemade chain you want (I tend to make bracelets about 6 1/2 inches long, including the clasp), it's time to start making charms. I like to mix commercial cast charms with charms I make from my mega stash of 'interesting' beads. It wasn't hard to find enough Halloween type themed beads for this bracelet, since I'm drawn to this sort of thing.

Making headpin charms is fairly straightforward, you just mount your bead on a headpin (I don't limit myself to silver headpins for what I call funky charm bracelets...I like mixing my metals for a bit of interest). I like to put a small bottom bead on next to the 'head' of the headpin, then my focal bead, then another small bead. Then just grasp the headpin with your needlenose pliers, right up against the last small bead added, and bend the headpin at a 90 degree angle. Then shift the needlenose pliers so you have the bend under the bottom 'needle' and bend the headpin up and over the top 'needle', making the loop. Then I like to re grasp the loop so that the bit of headpin that forms the neck of the loop is visible, and wrap the headpin end around the neck of the headpin to make the nice coiled look under the loop. Clip the end close to the headpin and snug the clipped end down so it's not too obvious.

I like to do a bit of an assembly line approach and just work up a bunch of charms at once, especially if I'm making a themed type bracelet. Here's my original collection of basic charms for this bracelet.

Once I have my charms made and gathered, I attach them to the charm bracelet with smaller jumprings, attach a clasp and I'm done! On this bracelet you'll see commercial charms, interesting lampwork beads, the skulls and bones are ceramic beads from Peru, the eye beads are, I believe, from India.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Another Swarovski Project Finished

I worked up my second crystal red magma fancy pear into another elegant, evening wear type necklace. This one is choker length, at just 16 inches, with gold plated charlottes and dark gold Swarovski bicones, I think they're medium vitrail, accented with translucent deep red seed beads. The necklace is a modified 'vines' pattern, originated by Chris Prussing of Alaska (she sells patterns on bead-patterns.com). The clasp is a tiny S clasp, gold toned. This Swarovski adventure has been a blast, and I think I'll be using a lot more of these shiny darlings in the future. Now, if I could just find a reliable outlet for all this bling, but that's an issue for most beadworkers.

Again, a special thanks to Artbeads.com for supplying these fantastic crystals!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Swarovski project, part deux





This week I've been working on the second of my three Swarovski Fancy Pear Shaped cabs. This one is a bit smaller than the previous one, at 30x20mm and a nice deep red they called crystal magma. I decided to make a cuff bracelet, something that IS in my comfort zone. I love the way this bracelet flows and looks like it's encrusted with jewels. I used flat bronze cubes, vintage ruby colored rose montees, rose gold charlottes, and ruby/black lined translucent size 11 Czech beads, mounted on a brass cuff with some nice commercial braintanned deer hide.
My love affair with Swarovskis is really heating up. I was interested to see that the old 5301 bicone bead has been improved and Swarovski has come out with a bicone bead with more cuts, called 5328 XILION cut- WOW-check out the Fire Opal color. OK, gotta definitely get some of those!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

WOW! Swarovskis!



I've worked with Swarovski crystals off and on for over a decade. Mostly I have used bicones for hugs and kisses type jewelry. So when I was contacted by Artbeads.com with an offer to sample some of their Swarovski products in return for blogging about them, I decided to use something outside of my usual comfort area. I decided to try my hand at working with some fancy pear shaped crystals. I got one Montana Sapphire, and two Crystal Red Magma crystals. When they arrived yesterday I was amazed. I've seen Swarovski flatbacks before, but I'd never really noticed the pear shaped crystals, and the depth and faceting in them is indescribable. I was stoked enough to work up the Montana Sapphire, starting yesterday evening and finishing the piece this afternoon. I bezeled the crystal with some of my hoard of sterling silver clad charlottes, and made a necklace of bicones, charlottes and larger silver plated seed beads. The necklace is about 18 inches long, and the pattern is called RAW vines, invented by my buddy Chris Prussing in Alaska. I'm including a picture here, but the picture doesn't do it justice. It's too cloudy today to get a picture that shows the depth and glow of the crystal. I'll try again next time the sun comes out and see if that makes a difference. I'm thinking I'll use the two Red Magmas on a cuff bracelet, but that will have to wait til next week. I haven't decided what to name this beauty...I'm toying with the name Montana Silver, or Montana Nights.
I want to say a special thank you to the folks at Artbeads for giving me the opportunity to use a product I wouldn't normally have bought for myself. Now I have to figure out how to restrain myself from buying all of the other fancy shaped Swarovski components that I've never considered using before. Well, maybe I'll just get one or two.....