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October 26, 2012

Kumihimo Braid Color Planning Tool

Kumihimo still looms in the back of my mind (no pun intended), but I haven't been actively learning it or practicing braiding lately.  However, that doesn't mean that I don't continue to collect bits of information that will be useful when I do pick it up again.

Today is one of those days.  I happened upon this super cool Kumihimo Braid Color Planner for 8 strand round braids.  It will help you plan what color cords to use in which positions to get your desired results.  Wow!!  I love this!!

Click on the image above to go to the tool or visit Lytha Studios for this tool and several other cool tutorials and supplies.  If you are interested in kumihimo, then you may also like this tutorial for using end caps to finish kumihimo braids.

Happy braiding!

October 24, 2012

Making Flower Shapes with Gemstone Beads and Wire

This isn't my first time making gemstone flowers.  I've also made a gemstone flower ring and two different pairs of earrings with gemstone flowers:  earrings 1 and earrings 2.  And while I was looking for those - I realized I also made a flower gemstone pendant!  I guess we could say that I enjoy making gemstone flowers!  The funny thing is that when I look at all of these flowers, each one uses a slightly different technique.

In any event, here are yesterday's flowers - which are not quite in their end state - since I haven't decided if they will be pendants, connectors or earrings yet.  The picture below uses some fabulous faceted dark blue lapis lazuli rondelles surrounded with coated labradorite rondelles.  The coated labradorite is similar to having an AB coating on glass beads - it just enhances the flash of the bead - and makes it more white than blue.  The beads are ultra-sparkly.  I think I was hoping these two would be for earrings, but they are slightly different lengths and I'm not sure there is anything I can do about that (except compensate with the ear wires?).

I also made a gemstone flower using a faceted black onyx center with the same coated labradorite beads and one that uses a rounder center bead of faceted opaque red garnet.  It looks a bit like a low grade ruby in this picture - but it is garnet.  It is surrounded by hematite rondelles.  

All of the flowers use a technique that is based on the herringbone weave.  The first wrap around the stone is used to frame the stone and the second holds the beads.  Ending the wires is a little tricky though - and on the two flowers above - you may not be able to tell that I folded the base wire up behind the flower to hold the wraps in place and end the flower neatly.  It is less of a problem with the ones that have the wrap loop finish - like in the first picture.

I also have these lovely faceted Star of David made of labradorite.  They have great flash and I want to be able to list them on my Etsy store.  I decided they would look best with a simple coiled loop that is large enough to slip on any chain.  I am thinking of adding a gemstone beaded chain - but I'm still not sure.  I think the wrapped loop on the one on the right is a little too large - but since I don't know how I'll use it yet - it seems like it would be a waste to re-do it prematurely.  It may just work out.

October 21, 2012

Wire Wrap Earrings: Back to Basics

I went to dinner with a good friend last night.  I was very flattered that she was wearing some jewelry that I made for her several years ago.  I was also surprised how much I liked them.

First, there was a pair of gemstone earrings - golden citrine and red garnet.  I always found that combination to be very striking - especially with the warmth of gold wire.   The necklace was asymmetrical, and I think used the same gemstone combination.

It made me miss the nights that I would spend making wrapped loops - either rosary style necklaces, link bracelets with gemstones or wire wrap earrings.

So, with my memory jogged, I decided to allow myself to take a step backwards and re-visit styles I have made in the past.

For whatever reason, some grossular garnet briolettes were the first gems to call for my attention. They range from a beautiful yellow-green, to the light green you see in the picture, all the way to a honey brown.  I separated them by size and color to find matching gems to make my earrings.

I tried a new technique for wrapping the brios - although I'm still not sure if it is easier or harder than the 'old fashioned way' of making a triangle above the briolette point and wrapping from there.  I think my new method allowed me to make a much shorter 'neck' on the wrap - which I prefer.  The longer brio in the center of the picture above was wrapped the usual method.  The two shorter ones on the side were done by making a wrapped loop on a piece of wire, inserting the wire into the brio, forming the triangle above the brio like you normally would, and then wrapping the remaining end under the wrapped loop.  It wasn't as easy to hold - but I like the shorter wrap - so I will probably try this method again in order to perfect it.

To match the grossular garnets - I happened across some hessonite garnet rondelles - which are a variety of grossular garnets that are primarily honey, brown and reddish pink colored.  The strand I have also has some grey garnets.  Together, the grossular and hessonite garnets seemed to capture the season of Fall - so I made a couple of pairs or earrings with this combination.

I like to make ear wires to match my earrings - because I think it really makes them more distinctive.  These are pretty simple - with a red garnet  surrounded by wimple wraps.  I oxidized them to make them more rustic looking.

I may continue to play with my 'old style' for a little while.

October 13, 2012

Free Tutorial: Hoops with Loops Earring Finding

My first tutorial EVER.  I'd love your feedback on it!

I decided this design was simple enough to do with just pictures.  It is to make the frames for the copper moonstone earrings I made last week.

The wire that I used to make the 'loop' part is a small skewer that is used to sew turkeys closed at Thanksgiving - but any smooth, straight, rigid item of the appropriate size will work.

You will also see one of the mandrels that  I purchase from the hardware store pipe section.  I like to have these in a variety of sizes since they are lighter to take with me than my steel ring mandrel.  Anything round of the right size will work.  My pipe fitting is 3/4" inside diameter so it makes 1" hoops.

Last, but not least, the earring frame is 20g wire and the wraps are 24g, but I think there is room to change it a little.

I hope you enjoy it!  I found this design really simple and fun to make.  There is also more information, if you scroll to earlier posts - about work hardening and tumbling these (which help alot!)

I recommend you mouse over the picture, right click on the picture  and select open in new tab. Then you can zoom in on the picture by clicking on it.  This worked for me with Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome browsers.

October 12, 2012

Copper Herringbone Hoop Earrings

I made two different versions of copper hoops this past weekend.  Both pairs incorporate some gorgeous, but dark, faceted garnet rounds that I have several strands of.

The first pair has a simple wrap around the stone to highlight it and keep it in place.  They are more oval than round.  Very simple and more petite than the hoops I made earlier in the week.

Once I made those, I had to make another pair with herringbone wraps.  I love the way a couple of rounds of herringbone weave highlights a stone.  So simple and so pretty.

I may oxidize these too - but the darker stone doesn't cry out for it quite as much as the moonstone in my last pair of hoops did.  I changed the clasp on the earrings so instead of a closed circle, it has a small piece nipped out so you just hook the wire in.  It seems to make it easier to put the earrings on without distorting the hoop shape.

My next version, I will probably do away with the closure on the back altogether and use a straight post with  an earring back.  It seems like they will be easier to put on and keep their shape better.  Hopefully, I will have time this weekend to work on it. (and won't get distracted by something else I want to try - which happens a lot!!)

October 11, 2012

Copper... Why it is Great for Beginning Wire Wrappers

What is old is new again, I guess.  I've used copper before in my wire work, but never really loved it.  It can be very soft and the look is somewhat rustic.  I tend to prefer a more classic or contemporary look.  But, never say never, because on a whim - or perhaps from convenience or financial necessity - I'm not sure which - I purchased some copper wire at the hardware store on Friday.  Two simple rolls from the hardware store in the electrical department in 20g and 24g.  I knew I had earrings in mind.

I can't tell you how happy working with the copper wire has made me this weekend.  I liked the first pair of earrings when I made them - but I have to admit I loved them once I darkened them with Liver of Sulfur and tumbled them.  They haven't left my ears since! 

This weekend I made 3 more variations of those earrings - all hoops and all but one in copper.  I guess I should get to the point of this post - why am I loving copper and why do I think it's great for beginners?
  1. Temper:  Copper wire is soft to wrap with - but work hardens easily.  It's easy to coil, wrap, hammer - you name it.
  2. Cost:  Nothing releases your creativity like knowing your mistakes are not costly.  Copper is one of the best bargains around.
  3. Convenience:  Run on down to the hardware store electrical aisle.  I picked up 20g and 24g there for $3.99 a roll.
  4. Color:  Copper is bright and shiny off the roll, but it still works with patinas like Liver of Sulfur - so you can learn wire wrapping and finishing techniques with it.  
  5. Size:  You can easily find copper wire in all of the standard sizes we use in making jewelry.  20g for earwire, 24g or 26g for wrapping beads - even 16g or 18g for making bracelets or sturdier pieces like chains.
  6. Variety:  Copper is a hardware store staple.  You can find copper washers in a variety of sizes that can be used for stamping blanks, for dapping, or as a base for beading or wrapping.  I love doming copper pennies.  They are the cheapest stamping/dapping copper you can find (pre-1982).
I learned to make jewelry with sterling silver since it was cheap at the time (about $12 an ounce I think!).  In retrospect, I wish I had known about copper.  I learned with half hard wire (mostly) and now working with soft copper is a dream.  

October 10, 2012

Copper Hoop Earrings: Before Patina and After

I have been enjoying playing with copper this week.  I made some new earrings that are a variation on the hoops I made last week that I will post once I get some decent pictures.  I also oxidized the copper and moonstone hoop earrings I made last week to give the copper a warmer tone.

Below is the before and after photos.  I used Liver of Sulfur until the copper was black and then I used some steel wool to lighten it up and put them in the tumbler for about 20 minutes.  I prefer the oxidized pair, but it may be that it is just better with my skin tone.

Of course, there's no going back now, so if I decide I preferred the original pair, I will be making more.

October 05, 2012

Copper and Moonstone Hoop Earrings

Finally set to making some jewelry last night.  I used some of the new moonstone rondelles I received yesterday along with some moonstone briollettes that I received from the same vendor in a previous order.  These earrings were relatively simple to make - especially considering that I am not a big fan of coiling wire.  Normally, I consider it very tedious.

Hmmm.  I was just looking for a picture of the gem order where I got those briolettes, and instead I found a blog post on different gemstone order that had smooth brios.  Now I'm thinking I should have used those ones, since they seem a little smaller - and I love the flash of smooth moonstone too.  I guess I'll try making another pair so I can compare the results.  This is a technique I would like to get better at.

I have two fundamental issues with this design.

First, I did all the coiling before I made the hoop shape - which is what made it reasonably easy to do.  But, after I made the hoop shape, the copper wire is still a little soft.  I hammered the top half so it is work hardened, but I couldn't do the bottom because of the loops where the stones hang.  I don't want them to get smooshed.  As I'm writing this, I think the solution is that I should have tumbled the hoops before I attached the stones - right?  That would have work hardened the entire hoop.  I guess I will definitely make another pair to try that out.

The second design issue may not be so much of an issue as a preference.  Should the brio face front or to the side?  In the picture, it appears as if it is facing to the side, but that is just because of how they are laying.  In fact, if the earrings were hanging, the brio faces front.  I think that is how it should be - since most people look at your earrings from the front framing your face, not the side - but it could be done either way.

In my head, I'm comparing this to putting in a new roll of toilet paper.  You can have the paper hang over the roll or under the roll - there's no right or wrong way, but people absolutely have a preference.  (In the realm of TMI - I'll switch it if it doesn't hang over the roll.  Gosh - I hope that's not just me!)