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June 28, 2012

Wire and Jewelry Supply Shopping (again!)

Oops.  I did it again.

Bead Shopping at Fire Mountain Gems (FMG)

I ordered a few more things for jewelry making -  a book, some cabachons, and an assortment bag of beads.  I didn't neeeed any of this, but I had a credit at Fire Mountain Gems (FMG) for $25, so what the heck.  (That means it was free - doesn't it?)

It all started with Fire Mountain Gems weekly book sale.  This week's book was Wonderful Wire Works: An Easy Decorative Craft for $1.81.  It's on amazon for $11.27, so it was a good deal.   And I had that credit.  So now, I had to fill my cart with some other stuff to make the $5 shipping worthwhile.
(In case you like bargain books too - here's the link to FMGs Book of the Week Sale).

Did I mention I really like Surprises?

First, I ordered the amazonite cabachon assortment and sodalite cabachon assortment.  They were each an assorted package of 25 cabs between 4mm to 18x10mm in a variety of shapes.  I don't have any cabachons, so figured it would be nice just to get some.  The amazonite is a much better assortment than the sodalite, but overall, they're ok.  Nothing special - but I think I'll find a way to use them.  

I wish there were some larger cabachons in the sodalite assortment - and I like the shape variety and colors in the Amazonite.  Overall, I think there are better cabachon assortments on FMG.  (and I'll tell you when I find them!)

I'm confused though - aren't cabachons always supposed to have a domed top?  Some of the sodalite ones are just cylinders with no smooth top.  Maybe it's my misunderstanding.

Now, we get to the surprise part.  

With about $9 and change left to spend, I decide to say "what they hey" and order a Bosses Bead Bag assortment.  I can't tell you why - but I love to unwrap a package and be surprised.  It's even better if it came in the mail.  Personal quirk I guess.  

And the bag was a surprise.  It was a large lot of mostly glass beads, some stone beads and lots of base metal findings.  I guess I could have thought about this purchase a little more and figured out what it would contain, but I'm not even disappointed.  There's so many things in here that I would never buy - but it doesn't mean that I would never use them.  Some of them, I would have never thought of.

For example, there are hair pins with a glue on pad or loop finding.  That's cool.  There are lots of filigrees and bead caps.  Chain extenders, ring bases and findings that I haven't figured out yet.  Luckily, my daughter sorted them for me.  

The glass beads are nothing to rave about.  Mainly druks or other rough beads.  I like the gemstones, even though I know there is nothing terribly expensive in the lot.  I like the simple shapes, and basic colors.  You can judge the assortment for yourself.  Overall, I regard it as a silly purchase - but it was fun.  It's also nice to have base metal and cheaper beads on hand when my daughter wants to play or make gifts.

Do you buy any surprise assortments from any suppliers?  Are there any that you recommend or have been pleasantly surprised with?  Yup - I'd do this again. (can't help myself!)

Oh yeah - I forgot to mention that I really like the book.  It's different and fun.  I don't think I'd pay more than a few dollars for it though.

June 25, 2012

YOJ Week 25: Wire and Gemstone Flower Ring

Gemstone Flower Ring

I could be getting addicted to these little gemstone flowers.  They are so much fun to make and sooooo cute!

I made similar flowers in these gemstone flower earrings and these ombre amethyst gemstone earrings.  The idea for this ring came from an extra component that I made for both of those earrings.  (That's a story for another day I suppose - I often forget to make the earrings reverse instead of exactly the same so that's how I have those extras).

Meeting the Challenge(s)

I used this ring for my Year of Jewelry Challenge (week 25) as well as the Color Combo Challenge on Facebook.  Combining a color challenge with a jewelry challenge is fabulous! 

I view the Year of Jewelry challenge as my commitment to continue expanding my skills and keep practicing - while the color challenge continues to push me to explore color combinations that I might not otherwise.  

I will definitely use this color palette again though.  It is so rich and elegant - and perfectly suited to using gemstones.  The list of gemstone options for these colors was fabulous.  Tourmaline, grey moonstone, my favorite labradorite, zircon, grey diamonds, peridot, garnet, ruby - I'm sure I could find more and more in my stash.

Gemstone Flower Ring Details

This ring uses 24g gold filled wire to wrap carnelian petals around what I believe is a silver grey zircon center.  The leaves are gorgeous light green peridot.  I was going to leave it at that, but my daughter thought it felt 'unbalanced' so I added the garnet - which is meant to be a flower bud. 

Of course, I love the ring and I goofed on the sizing and made it too big!  Just a little too big.  I'm considering wrapping the band with 20g wire to make it more substantial and also a little smaller.
The color palette

June 16, 2012

Laying Out Your Jewelry Making Project

I'm certain everyone has their own tricks for how they start or work on a project.  I wanted to share mine. The project below is my layout for the earrings that I am making for the CCC group (Color Combo Challenge)

Beading on the go

I often do my jewelry projects at my children's sports games.  It keeps me from getting nervous watching my kids.  I also hate to say it, but baseball is a long, somewhat slow game with decent blocks of time to get jewelry accomplished in between innings, when new pitchers are warming up, etc.  So, I needed a solution to layout my projects

Painter's palettes are not just for painting

I use round painter's palettes to organize my projects and decide on the beads.  These are about 7 inches around.  There are 10 wells around the sides and one large well in the center.  I use the wells to put the beads and supplies for my project.  I try to find them at the dollar store or on sale at a craft store.  I usually pay $1 each or less.  I must have at least 10 of them. 

The things I love about using painter's palettes:
  • They are pure white, so you can see the true color of your beads.
  • They keep your beads from rolling all over.
  • They stack easily, so you can set aside a project and come back to it, without putting everything away or cluttering your work area.
  • They are the perfect size to hold on your lap and work over.  They catch wire cuttings and dropped beads.
When I need to take a project with me, I cover the palette with cling wrap and put it in a box.  The box keeps the project flat and catches any beads that sneak out.  The cling wrap holds the beads in the wells, but does not cling to the beads (although sometimes to have to tap the top of the wrap to get them to drop off if they do).

I hope you enjoyed seeing my project layout.  I'd love any tips that you use for laying out a project and working on it.
Plastic Palette (
And wouldn't you know, I just checked Amazon and someone on there has them for just about $1.  (Of course, who knows what shipping would cost!)
Palette Lids (

And then I found covers to fit these palettes!  Can't believe I haven't seen these before.  I'll definitely get some of these when I see them locally, or if I order art supplies for my daughter.

June 14, 2012

Color Challenge and a New Jewelry Book Review (Part 1)

It's a busy week - but I'm still hanging in and getting organized to make some jewelry tonight!

Color Combo Challenge: Want to give it a try?

click to enlarge

I've joined a color challenge group on Facebook that I think will help to expand my creativity.  If you haven't noticed, I tend to stick to some favorite gemstones and color palettes.

Judging from this week's color palette, I know this will help me break out of the rut.

This weeks colors are called 'blooming brights' and consist of two shades of purple, bright yellow, orange and fuschia (really shades of those colors).  A new palette is voted on every week.

If you are looking to challenge yourself in jewelry making - or whatever craft or medium you work with - click here to go to the CCC Group (Color Combo Challenge) and like them to join in.

Beautiful Wire Jewelry For Beaders: Book Review Part 1

View book on
My latest jewelry book purchase Beautiful Wire Jewelry for Beaders: Creative Wirework Projects for All Levels has not disappointed me in the least so far.  In fact, it is fabulous... but I haven't made any of
the projects yet - and that is as important as the eye candy.

I've published my initial impressions - so wander on over to Lisa Yang Jewelry: Reading to get the scoop.  I expect to be making projects
from this book for the next 2 weeks (or until the next book comes in the mail!).

Yes - I ordered two more jewelry books during Interweave Book Store's Hurt Book Sale.  The books may still be on sale (even though I thought the email they sent me said the sale ended on the 12th!) .  My new jewelry books should be here soon!

That also means I'll be culling my bookshelves for other books or magazines that need a good home this weekend.  I'm thinking the magazines are next to go.  It seems like a waste to re-buy them, but the digital editions would give me so much more room (for more books?!)

June 08, 2012

YOJ Week 23: Marlene Earrings from The Earring Style Book

This week I made two pairs of earrings using the instructions for a project called 'Marlene' from The Earring Style Book: Making Designer Earrings, Capturing Celebrity Style, and Getting the Look for Less.  The center stones are amazonite and I bought them on my last bead shopping trip.  The other stones are labradorite that I had in my stash.  This is part of my jewelry book review project.

I think the silver earrings could use some patina - but I'm holding off for right now.  That will probably be the subject of a future post, a variety of 'before patina' and 'after patina' projects just to get a good idea for how it changes the feel of the jewelry.

Along those lines, I made these earrings in both silver and gold

June 04, 2012

4 New Ways to Use Your Bead Crimping Pliers

Bead crimping pliers are used to flatten and smooth crimp beads on beading wire.  When used properly, they eliminate sharp, flat crimp beads and leave a smooth rounded bead that holds wires better than those closed with ordinary pliers.

What you might not know, is that there are at least 4 other nifty ways to use your crimp tool.  Try these and let me know how they work for you.
  1. Tuck wire ends on wraps:  Use the crimp tool when you are creating wrapped loops to get into tight spaces and tuck the wire ends in.  You can use either the front tips or the crimp rounder.  This will help you finish the wraps neatly.
  2. Create a paddle pin:  Paddle pins are like head pins, but they have a wider, flat surface like a paddle.  To make a paddle pin with the crimper, just take a piece of wire less than 20g thickness, place it in the tips of the jaws and squeeze.  The crimper will make a flat paddle that can be used to hold beads.  The beads must fit the wire snugly though, since the paddle is not very wide.
  3. Create a wide paddle pin:  If you have the same crimp pliers pictured above, you can use the back flat portion of the jaws, just behind the 'c' groove to flatten wire.  This creates a wider paddle pin than using the front part of the plier.  Make sure you look for sharp edges when using this part of the plier, since it does not always leave a smooth edge.
  4. Start a wire coil:  I always have trouble starting a coil with the thick piece of wire.  I find that by using the crimpers to flatten the wire end (i.e. make a paddle pin first) and then start coiling, the resulting spiral is rounder and smoother.
And of course, use it to fasten crimps!  Below are some earrings that use paddle pins made with my crimp tool.

June 03, 2012

How to Store Your Beads So You Can See What You Have

 Beginning Beaders Beware

From the day you start beading, you need to consider what to do with the beads, gemstones and findings that you start collecting (or in my case, hoarding).  Those little plastic baggies the beads came from the store in seem fine at first, since they are usually labeled, and you can write additional information.  But pretty soon, you need a box to store the bags of beads - and then there are more and more bags of beads, and bags of wire and bags of findings to sift through.  Soon, you spend more time trying to find the beads and supplies, then you do actually making the jewelry!  But, keep reading, because there are solutions!

Bead Storage Evolves into Watchmakers Cases

If you're like me, you take the step to organize.  In my case, my first storage system (which worked for quite a while) was these fantastic metal and glass watchmakers cases from Lee Valley Supply.  The bead cases come stored in metal or cardboard boxes and sizes from small to large.  I bought an assortment and was very happy with them at first.  I liked that I could open the metal container and see the beads, I could re-arrange them to see color patterns.  Honestly, I thought I had