Sunday, September 22, 2013

Time for a little "Boo!"

The weather here has turned cooler, and today is the first day of Fall.  Halloween is little more than a month away, and I found the perfect beads for a scary little project!

The Pennsylvania Quilt Festival was at the convention center in Oaks, Pa., this weekend, and in the same complex, the International Gem and Jewelry Show had set up.  Woo-hoo!  Two things I love under one roof!!

On a short run through the gem and jewelry show, I spied these cute beads.  They are made of dyed howlite.  I've seen skulls before, but not pumpkins or sliced skeleton faces.  And they were cheap!  Only $2.00 for a strand of 16 beads!  I quickly snatched a strand of each.

Turning the beads into earrings was easy.  The skeleton faces were threaded onto headpins.  I made a wire-wrapped loop at the top of each and slipped them onto french hook earring wires.  For the pumpkins, I added a small, fire-polished Czech glass bead to make a 'stem'.

Including the findings, each pair cost me under $1.50 to make!

I've already given one pair as a gift...and have a few more set aside for family and friends.  Just looking at them makes me smile.  I can't wait to wear them in October!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Knotted Pearls with a Twist

A customer came into the little shop where I work (The Bead Garden, Havertown, Pa.) in search of supplies for Christmas gifts.  Yes, if you like to give hand-crafted Christmas gifts, now is the time to begin working on them!  Her plan was simple:  buy enough large, glass pearls in varying colors to make 30 necklaces of the same design.  She had purchased a necklace while on a trip to Italy, and wanted to 'copy' it for her friends. To find the supplies she needed, I examined the necklace, and knew I'd have to try one myself.

The concept is pretty simple -- using 6 seven-foot lengths of very fine hemp cord, you make overhand knots between clusters of four beads.  The necklace can look casual or dressy, depending on your choice of beads.

Here's a quick lesson:

I selected a fine hemp (also called 'jute') made by Darice.  It comes in a variety of colors, but for this necklace, I used a varigated rainbow pack.  I cut 6 pieces of hemp, each seven feet long.  I tested the beads to be sure I could the string them onto the hemp.  To make that easier to do, I first hardened the last two inches of each strand of cord with brush-on super glue.

Do this over a piece of paper, so glue doesn't get everywhere, and give it at least 20 minutes to dry thoroughly.  Some cords were a bit thicker than others, so I trimmed the end of the cords at an angle so they would slide through the beads.    

Fold the cords in half and create a loop for the 'clasp' end by making a knot the correct size for the closure.  I intended to use a larger pearl for my 'clasp,' but a button would work, too.

The next knot was made about 5 inches down the cords.  This space allows the necklace to lie flat against the back of the neck.  (This is also a good idea if you have a limited number of beads -- why use them where no one will see them??)

Now, separate out four of the strands, thread one bead on each strand, and push all four up to the knot just created.  I left a little bit of space between knots, so the beads can move a bit.

Just below the cluster of beads, create another over-hand knot.  Push it up to the base of the cluster and tighten it.  I had to tug some cords individually to keep the knot from getting 'loopy.'

Select four cords from the bundle and string on four more beads, pushing them to the base of the previous knot.  Create another overhand knot and tighten it.  Repeat the same process until there are several clusters of beads.  (I made 10 clusters on my necklace, which had a 18" finished length.)  Note:  after each knot, pick out four cords from the bunch to string the beads onto -- the process of knotting the cords makes it impossible to thread beads onto the same string every time.  Don't pick cords next to each other...spread them out a bit.

To end the necklace, make a knot under the last cluster of beads, and then make another knot about 5 inches from the previous one (remember, that part goes around the back of the neck).

Separate one or two cords out and run them through the closure bead/button.  Gather all of the threads and tie one more overhand knot snug against the closure bead.  Snip all of the cords about 1/4 inch beyond the closure and brush them with super glue to keep the knot secure and the thread from fraying.

My necklace was made using 10 mm glass ivory glass pearls, which I had on hand.  Can you imagine this made up using much larger 16 mm maroon or teal glass pearls with natural hemp?  It would be a statement piece!  My customer spent about $200 for supplies that will create 30 necklaces -- gifts that will look much pricier than $7.00 each to create!