December 31, 2013

Jewelry Design Ideas

December 17, 2013

Wire Wrap Jewelry Design: Proportion

From all those handmade earring findings I made last week, so far I have only completed one pair of earrings! I used the simple wire wrapped Czech glass bead ear wires and added some very nicely faceted whiskey quartz drop beads.

December 9, 2013

Handmade Earwires with Gemstone Beads

This weekend was about making earring findings - lots and lots of ear wires with gemstone or glass beads.  The designs are all similar, a bead with a wire frame, but they also vary slightly as I tried my hand at different techniques for making them.

December 4, 2013

Woven Bead Cap Earrings

 I wish I posted these woven bead caps several weeks ago when I made them.  I see a lot of designs with wire weaving and I've always discarded the idea as 'not my thing'.  With these earrings, it may have become something I'd like to make 'my thing'.

November 27, 2013

A Little Thing Called Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my day to host the families.  This year, there will be a larger than normal crowd.  About 20 people.

November 21, 2013

Daisy Chains: I'll Never Outgrow Them!

I'm working my way through the stitches in Beth Stone's Seed Bead Stitching book, and I've jumped ahead to daisy chain.  Yes - that simple daisy stitch we all learned when we were kids is what I'm playing with now and I'm loving it!!

November 19, 2013

What is Craftsy and What Does It Offer Jewelry Makers?

This post is my own opinion of Craftsy based on my experience taking their classes, but I may receive a commission as an affiliate for any products you purchase.  I may be compensated $5.00 for this post (woo hoo!), but if you haven't heard of or tried Craftsy, I really do recommend you read my experience and check it out.

It's hard for me to believe that I signed up for my first Craftsy class almost one year ago, and how much the site has grown and changed since then.

November 12, 2013

Peyote Stitch Sampler Bracelet

This peyote stitch sampler bracelet was such an exercise in patience for me!!  But it was all good since I love the results and feel like I have a better understanding of the stitch.

November 8, 2013

Super Easy Stack Ring Free Jewelry Making Tutorial

Courtesy of Ornamentea, here's a super simple Sparkle and Stack Ring tutorial.  I'm not normally one for sparkles, but I found this tutorial on Pinterest right after I received an assortment of Swarovski crystal cup chain.  Perfect timing!

The ring above follows the tutorial very closely.  The only difference is that I didn't use the 26g wire to wrap over the ends of the wire ring shank.  Instead, I smoothed the cut ends on the band with my cup burr and made sure they lay flat.

I made several of these rings. Below is the ring shank before wrapping any embellishment on.

The ring shank is 16g or 18g wire, silver filled for the cup chain ring and yellow brass for the 'gold-tone' rings.

The way that I made this ring - an important element for the comfort is the amount of overlap of the ring shank wires.  I tried to make it so the cut ends tuck right between my fingers.  They are smoothed with a cup burr and emery board file, so there are no sharp ends to catch on my fingers and they can't get caught on anything else like my clothing.  I am very pleased with the way this works out.

This ring has a 6mm white freshwater pearl in the center and 4mm round garnets on the side.  I was aiming for an 'ancient' regal look.

From the side view, notice that the wires that attach the beads in my version end before the shank wires.  I like that this minimizes the likelihood of the wrap wires loosening by slipping off the shank.

Oh, I should mention that no matter how hard I pressed the wrap wires around the shank, they could still slide around - so I cheated and put a little crazy glue gel to keep them in place.  Whatever works!

I loooove this ring with the carnelian.  It's a large, round faceted stone, maybe 10mm.  I also tried to use a herringbone wrap on the sides and it has a nice wire design.  (My daughter thinks it's way too big, but you can't always accept fashion advice from a 9th grader!)

Obviously, I had a good time trying different variations of this ring.  The shank is super easy to make and is suitable for lots of different styles of embellishment, from cup chain, to a single stone to multiple stones.

For the wrap wire, I sometimes used two pieces of wire together, if the hole in the stone was large enough.  I felt like that gave the wraps more strength without making it harder to wrap.

I hope you have as much fun with this ring design as I did!

October 5, 2013

Making a Bead Cap Into a Bead Cone

No matter how many beads, finding, supplies and tools I have, I never seem to have the right size, right color, right shape, and so on.  Does this sound familiar?

There are two obvious solutions - buy more or make do with what you have - not necessarily in that order.  But are those really the only two solutions?

Sometimes, there is a third solution - change what you have to make it work.  Obviously, this won't work with everything, but sometimes you can make alterations.  

Case in point are these silver bead caps.  I bought the ones in the front many, many years ago and have never really used them.  They are very shallow and end up looking like a hat on any bead that I use them on. They are sterling silver from Bali - purchased when silver was about 35 cents per gram.  (If you are curious, the current rate for Balinese silver beads is about $1.32 per gram and up)

Lately, I have been wanting to make beaded tassels - but they look best in a deeper cap, or even a cone.  Rather than buy something new, I decided to try and alter the caps that I don't use by using my doming block from Harbor Freight to change the shape.

The original caps are very shallow.

After using the doming punch and gradually moving to smaller dies and hemispheres (the domes), I ended up with more rustic, but deeper cones.

I know the new caps aren't as finely detailed as the originals, but they have a rustic appeal.  And most important, they didn't cost me anything but time!

October 4, 2013

Adjustable Wrap Rings with Diamond Gemstones

This week, I was inspired by some rings I saw at a local shop, Kingfisher Road.  They have an amazing assortment of jewelry, along with clothing and accessories.  It is a great place to buy gifts.  In any event, the rings were manufactured - not hand crafted, but I liked that the rings were adjustable and used gemstones.  This was the perfect opportunity for me to use some of the gemstone beads I bought from Fire Mountain Gems.

I made several rings, but these are the ones that turned out best.  This picture is before I applied patina.

Even though I love bright copper, I rarely leave it that way.  It doesn't stay bright and shiny anyway, so you

September 14, 2013

Pearls, Pearls, Pearls Blog Hop

Today is the big reveal for the Pearls, Pearls, Pearls Blog Hop graciously hosted by Shel at MiShel Designs.

 I love pearls, especially baroque or unusual ones.  When I first started making jewelry, pearls were my favorite thing to buy and also to use.  One of my favorite necklaces is a long continuous strand of assorted pearls and seed beads like the necklace above.  It can be worn as a single necklace, doubled, tripled or wrapped many times around as a bracelet.  Even though I love pearls and have a large selection, I have trouble using them in my designs - and especially photographing them.

I made a bracelet for the blog hop.  This was not really what I intended, but one thing turned into another

September 13, 2013

Jewelry Supplies from Fire Mountain Gems

There are at least a couple of great things about Fire Mountain Gems.  They have a huge variety and they ship quick!  I ordered some goodies at the beginning of this week and they were in my mailbox yesterday!  One thing that I'm happy about is that I am getting much better at recognizing which items I am going to like and which I should pass on.  Since I'm a sucker for assortments, there's almost always something that I wouldn't normally buy, but sometimes those beads come in  handy too.

I'll start with one of the items I love, love, love...

 These are lamp worked glass curved rectangles.  They have holes on each side and are meant for bracelets.  They would make pretty bracelets, but I plan to use them for pony tail holders.  They are really pretty in

September 11, 2013

Making Copper Rings for Beading

Don't you hate it when you are looking for a certain jewelry finding or supply, but just can't find it!  That's been me lately.  I've wanted to play some more with brick stitch or seed beading around a ring, similar to what I did in these simple brick stitch hoops, but using a ring instead of an open hoop.  I've looked, but I just can't find simple rings in a base wire with the right shapes and thickness to use for what I have in mind.

Not surprisingly, I finally decided to make what I've been looking for.  These are 20g copper links - round and oval shapes.  The circles are in two sizes, 7/8 inch in diameter and 1.25 inches in diameter.  The larger ovals are 1 inch by 1.25 inches and the smaller ones are 3/4 inch by 7/8 inch.  This was just a test run - I didn't really know what size I needed or wanted.  Just that I need some beading links.  Now that I see them, I think I'll make some smaller ones, and probably some diamond - or square shapes too (depends on how you look at them!).

To make the shapes, I used mandrels from Bead Smith.  They are very handy for making rings as well as earring armatures or consistent shapes like drops.  I have numbered each 'step' on the mandrel and make notes in my sketchbook which size I used.  I thought they were a bit cheap at first because they are plastic, but now that is one of my favorite features.  They are super light weight and really easy for me to bring to softball and baseball games, which is when I do a lot of the prep work for my projects.

On another note, this is the first time I have used the easy flow paste solder I recently bought from Fire Mountain Gems.  It definitely melts quicker than the medium that I was previously using.  I really like it.  Soldering all of these rings was super quick.  And they cleaned up quick with my new file from Harbor Freight too.

A bummer from last night is that after many years of use, my tumbler belt finally broke.  I had bought a spare on my last trip to Harbor Freight (I must have known it was time), but it didn't fit well.  Maybe I didn't put it on correctly, but it wasn't tight enough so the barrel wasn't turning as much as it should have.  I ended up using a rubber band and now it is working great again.  I have lots of rubber bands, so I should be good for a while now!

And last but not least, the Orchard Supply Hardware near me is going out of business and everything is at least 20-40% off.    That was a great opportunity for me to run in and get my favorite packages of copper wire for under $3.00 each.  I think I bought all of the remaining packages.  There was (1) 18g, (2) 20g, (2) 22g and (1) 24g.  The wire itself is not the best quality - try Thunderbird Supply for that - but I love the packages for portable beading.  It has a centimeter and inches ruler on the back, the wire doesn't get tangled in my bag and the wire is sometimes square'ish which can be useful depending on what you're doing.  Of the packages I bought last night, the 18g is round, the two packages of 20g are definitely square and the other packages are round.  All fine for me.  I just finished a package of 20g on the rings, so the timing was perfect!

Oh - and did I mention I did it again?!.. I ordered more beads from FMG.  I wish I would stop - but I can't help myself!  As I get more enamored of copper, the more rustic beads appeal to me.  Of course, I should have decided that before I invested in lots of AAA fine gemstones for the past few years.  I'll post my goodies later this week.  They should be here Thursday.

September 7, 2013

How to Make Copper Ball Headpins Using Thick Wire

When I did my first post on making copper ball headpins, I was only able to form the ball with thinner (higher gauge) wires.  I don't even think I was able to get it to ball up with 20g wire.  Luckily, some really helpful people commented on the post and suggested that I try making them a little differently.  And it works!

Just to catch you up, what I am talking about here is making headpins with a ball end using copper wire and a butane torch - the type that you use for creme brulee.  Normally, I hold the wire perpendicular to the flame and let the ball climb up the wire.

But some of the people who left comments suggested that I could get a ball headpin with heavier (lower gauge) wire if I held the wire parallel with the flame.  At first, I thought that would mean my hand would be closer to the flame, but it really isn't very different.  As you can see, I use some long needle nosed pliers to do this.  And the amazing thing is how well it works!!

The force of the flame seems to push the end of the wire to melt, and not only was I able to ball 16g wire, but I was able to get some pretty good sized balls on the end.  The picture above shows a variety of headpins that were made using 16g to 20g wire.

Thank you for your comments and help!!

September 5, 2013

DIY: Wire Rose Pony Tail Elastics

It's soooo hot here.  It's always hot here in September.  Other places are starting to feel like Autumn with an occasional crisp day, and we are burning up in Los Angeles.  Not only that, my Air Conditioning took a break this week.  Yup, it was hot!

"Necessity is the mother of invention", and even though any hair tie would do, I've always loved a pretty pony tail.  I decided to play with the wire rose design that I used for rings and see if it would work on a larger scale.

I used 16g brass wire for something a little different.  I've never used brass wire before, and it is harder than copper, which was a good thing for this design.  I didn't need to tumble the wire flower to work harden it.

 I'm very happy with the results!  I wish I had my daughters gorgeous hair, but I probably did at her age.

The only tricky part was attaching the rose embellishment to the pony tail holder.  I originally just left a loop and used a larks head knot to attach the pony tail holder.  It was effective, but a little messier than I wanted.  Also, it pinned the rose in one spot which makes it harder to make it centered on the hair.

Instead of a simple loop, I folded the wire in half and made a hook to attach the elastic.  This has several advantages.  The hair elastic can be changed if you want a different color.  Very practical if you plan to sell them.  The flower embellishment can move on the elastic, so it can be positioned perfectly on the hair.

The hair tie itself looks neat and professionally made from the back. I tucked and folded over the wire ends to prevent any possibility of them scratching or getting caught on anything.

 And as if you needed one more reason to make a great hair tie like this, I love the fact that when you throw one on your wrist to have it handy, it looks like a pretty bracelet instead of a piece of ugly elastic.

 And one more picture of how pretty they look in the hair.  Once I started making hair ties I couldn't stop.  I've been digging through my box of UFOs (Un-finished Objects) for more goodies to add to pony holders.  I'll post them another day.  If you are interested in purchasing hair ties like this, I am planning to add them to my Etsy store this weekend.

August 30, 2013

Wire Snake Charm - Created Intentionally This Time!

Yesterday, I shared my somewhat haphazard, accidental creation of a filed, forged, stamped copper snake charm.  Today, I created another intentionally.  This time, I used 10g wire and it made a much more substantial snake.  Which also leads me to believe yesterday's snake was 14g wire, not 12g as I initially thought.  You can see from the side by side, there is a big difference in the scale of the two snakes.

The snake gave me a great excuse to go to Harbor Freight and do a little tool shopping.  I used a 6 inch file for the first (garter) snake and I knew that would never work for the second (anaconda).  $2.00 later, I am the proud owner of a 12 inch file, and about $30 worth of other tool delights! But before I tell you about the tools, let me provide some details of my snake.

I filed the tail into a taper first.  I think I annealed once during the filing stage, but I'm not sure it made it go any quicker.  Filing takes as long as it takes - but it is somewhat meditative and soothing to shape the wire.  After filing, I had to anneal the wire in order to shape the snake.  After shaping, I used the "W" stamp to apply the pattern and I hammered the head end flat.  I filed the head into more of a diamond shape.  If When I try again, I may try to dome the head a bit using a doming punch in my vise to give it a little more shape.  The reviews on the second snake were very positive (2 out of 2 children preferred it!), but my daughter, forever the stickler about details, thinks it should have eyes!  You know if I do that, the open mouth or forked tongue is next...

Now, for the shopping!  I love Harbor Freight for jewelry tools and materials.  Check the link for some of my previous finds.  This trip, I got the following:  a magnetic tool holder for my peg board so I can have my most often used tools handy, a replacement belt for my harbor freight tumbler (even though it hasn't broken yet, I like to be prepared), a new pair of micro flush cutters, a handheld electric bug swatter for when I work at night in my garage with the door open and the bugs visit, and a set of 3 wire brushes to clean my files and other misc. tasks.  Oh, and a box of nitrile gloves because I know I'm not as careful as I should be about getting things like Liver of Sulphur on my hands.  I wish I had looked up these items online before I went shopping and I would have saved the money on the tumbler replacement belt.  It got horrible reviews!  I think I'll return it and buy a big box of rubber bands because I've heard they work too.

August 29, 2013

Wire Snake Charm - So Proud!

Do you ever make something that is ridiculously simple, but of which you are extremely proud?

That's today for me with the silly little snake charm.  It took way too long to make for what it is, and it probably could be done ten times better, but... it is what it is and I'm very satisfied with it.

It didn't even start off to be a snake.  It was going to be some nice copper hoop earrings, similar to the heavy copper forged earrings I've made before. Unfortunately, I jumped ahead and made the hoop before hammering the wire.  My next thought was to see if I could make them into more of an ancient style hoop by filing the 12g wire thin enough to make it into an earwire.  This thought came from watching a great wire wrap tutorial video by Dennis Hardy on YouTube.  He starts by filing the wire to taper it, and I realized I never tried that - so I dug out my neglected files and started tapering the wire.

At some point, I decided I was never going to file enough to get to ear wire thin - maybe they could be gauges - those ear wires that people use to expand their ear hole size, but they wouldn't be wearable earrings for me.  Then the snake came into my brain.  I've always loved snake jewelry, so it seemed like the easiest thing to do.  I added a few curves, flattened the head and pulled out my letter stamps to add texture (another thing I've rarely used).

The 'X' letter was the obvious choice for the snake skin, but it didn't work as well as I would have liked.  Admittedly, I wasn't trying very hard, but next time I would use a W or M.  I just think the design would be fuller without having to fiddle as much with the stamp.  I also would anneal before stamping too.

So, there you have it.  I'm already getting over the little fella, but I do feel like I learned a few new skills and had some fun making it.  And my kids could tell right away what it was supposed to be (which is not always the case - lol!).  I suppose this is a perfect project for wire scraps or mistakes.  And I think it will be perfect in a group of wire wrapped charms - possibly on a leather cord.  Or maybe attached to an earwire?

And, on another note, I'm right back to taking pictures with my i-Phone on my kitchen counter.  I've cleaned up an area to be my photo studio, but I just haven't had time to set up everything and practice.  Again, it is what it is, and I'm sure I will get to it soon.  I just hate not posting just because the pictures are no better than they've always been.

August 20, 2013

Blogging Skills for Dummies: Photography 101

When I started blogging, I never thought about all of the skills I would need to learn.  I guess I thought it would all be about jewelry making - which is something I'm doing anyway.  But, eventually I realized it's also about hosting decisions, domains, layout, SEO, keywords, social networking and - having worked my way through that list of items, now I need to learn how to take better photographs!

As much as I hate to admit it, I don't think my I-phone is doing as well as it needs to.  And then there's my kitchen counter background.  And ambient window lighting.  I guess I'm lucky that my kitchen counter is neutral.

So, that's where I've been.  Watching some helpful product photography videos on Etsy, reading my Nikon manual, setting up my light tent and taking pictures in the morning, afternoon and before dusk to see which has the best lighting.  Which leads me to the question - are my I-Phone photos really that bad?

Here are some links that I have found especially useful:
On Etsy, I enjoyed this video that analyzed different shops and recommended improvements in the pictures.  It really made me think about how I would like my items to look.
The Advanced Photography Chat, also a video on Etsy, gave practical tips to taking good product photos.
There are a couple of other videos there too - but after those primers, I made some notes and moved on to my camera manual and light tent.

And yes, a lot of this work is not just for my blog, but to support the upcoming Holiday online sales.  I'm hoping I'll be posting pictures again soon!

August 5, 2013

Ases Style Earrings: Beading Tips and Tricks

Aloha!  Sorry for the lapse in posts - I was site seeing in Maui for the past week.  It was fabulous!  The picture above is from Haleakala Crater - at 10,000 feet elevation, high above the clouds on the Island. Surprisingly, I didn't have as much time to make jewelry on vacation as I expected.  I imagined I would have nothing but time to relax on the beach or at the pool with beads and wire - finding shells on the beach to wrap, etc.  Nope - none of that!  Instead it was snorkeling, hiking, zip lining, banana boating, paddle boarding, eating and drinking.  And no shells!!  I've never been to such a beautiful beach that has no shells!  Lots of coral and lava though.

But, I did manage to do some beading on the plane on the way home.

I didn't want to attempt to carry on my tools, so I figured this was a good time for me to try my hand at more Miguel Ases style beading.  I have made a few more practice items, but this is my first complete pair of earrings since the first ones I made for a swap last year.

Since I didn't have scissors, the big challenge was how to cut the fireline thread for each of the components.  Any guesses how I did it?  No, my teeth are not that sharp!  I used the sharp edge of the soda can opening.  It still took considerable effort, but it worked.

I learned a lot making these earrings (besides that you can cut thread with a soda can)...  If you are interested in making this type of brick stitch earrings, here are my tips.

Tip 1:  Plan out how many beads you would like to surround your focal bead.

You are probably thinking how the heck do I know until I do it?  Yup - that's the point.  But you do need to know in order to space them evenly and get your thread tension correct.  Otherwise you'll end up with tight beads at the beginning and loose or crammed ones at the end.  And it will be very difficult to make your earrings match.

To plan how many I needed, I typically only had to bead 1/4 of the way around the bead.

Tip 2:  This may change as I get more experience, but I suspect it is easier if you start with the smaller beads and switch to larger beads as you move to subsequent rounds.  I'm sure that's not a rule, since I've seen plenty of earrings where it wasn't the case, but for these earrings, it worked.

Tip 3:  Try to plan how you will attach your components before you make your last round.  It will save you a lot of time figuring it out later.  These earrings took me as long to make the components as it did to add the jump rings and finish the ends.  Had I planned it out in advance, I definitely would have saved time.

Tip 4:  Make sure you leave a long enough thread tail at the start of your project to weave it into the project and tie it off correctly.  Yes - I was struggling with pieces of thread that were barely long enough to sew through with the needle attached.

I'll end this post with the first pair of Ases style earrings that I made.  I still think they are pretty good, but following my tips, I think I could make a pair that has a better shape with more balanced bead spacing.  I still like the shape of this design too, so I will give it another try some time soon.

July 25, 2013

Quick Copper Wire Focal Bead Bracelets

I haven't made much this week - I've been hoarding supplies instead.  Yesterday was a huge mail day - all of my orders arrived at once.  I got some supplies and tools from Fire Mountain Gems (FMG) to make soldering easier - and also a nice selection of gemstones that were not from FMG.

I like to make something every few days though, so I decided to use one of my new bead purchases.  I bought some gold rutilated quartz nuggets from Fire Mountain Gems.  I'm not sure why I keep buying their stones.  I know they are lower quality, but sometimes they are so darn cheap, I just can't resist giving it a try.

Anyway, I also like to try and push myself, so even though I didn't love the stones, I decided to see what I could do with them.  These simple bracelets is what I came up with.  The stone in the center is the rutilated quartz from Fire Mountain Gems.  The other two bracelets have little doo-dads (technical term) that were sitting on my bench.

These bracelets were super simple to put together and are very comfortable to wear.  I made them pretty close fitting rather than bangles.  They are 12g half round wire.

As always, there's a disappointment in the effort.  The flower has some Japanese seed beads that I recently purchased from Thunderbird Supply.  When I was using steel wool to brush off some of the patina, the color of the beads was coming off too!  I had no idea it would come off so easy.  Is that normal??

First of all, I thought they were solid color glass when they are matte opaque beads like these.  Second - I would have thought it would take more than a swipe with steel wool to remove the color.  I understand that a polished finish like AB would scratch easily - but really didn't expect it from these beads.

My lesson today - patina and clean your wire before you make the project if you are worried about the finish on the beads.  Also, I do like the rutilated quartz when it's in a rustic or simple design.

July 22, 2013

Simple Pearl Earrings with Custom Earwires

Today's project combines two of my favorite things in jewelry.  The simplicity of pearl earrings and unique handmade ear wires.  There are so many options when making your own earring findings - it is an area that I love to explore.  

The ear wire shape is not my own creation (few things are!), but they are a variation of... you guessed it - some earrings on my Pinterest Earring Inspiration board.  The original earrings are from Bloomingdale's and are considerably more refined than my attempt.  No worries though - I wasn't really going for a copy - just an interpretation.

Here's my big 'Oops' on this project.  I made my first pair of ear wires and I thought I had the process down.  Make the loop for the pearl dangle, hammer, and then make the rest of the curve shape of the earring.  So, I made about 5 pairs like that - and tumbled them.  And they were wonky.  The curves of the ear wires weren't smooth and flowing enough and I think that's a key element of the design.  So, I had to go back to square one.

It was much better when I made the main curve of the earring first, and then the loops - even though it was more difficult to hammer in the tighter area of the curve.  The headpins are also handmade - balled ends that I hammered flat to make a small circle.  

The last step is to add some antique patina to these earrings as a finishing touch.